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It may be a uniquely Minnesota thing that a man can go from prosecuting notorious ne'er-do-wells over a 32-year career to cleaning out his garage a week after retirement.

Former U.S. Attorney Paul Murphy said he doesn't really mind. It was time to move on.

"I still love the work and I still love the people who I worked with in the U.S. attorney's office," Murphy said on a sunny day a couple of weeks ago. "But at some point, it's time to move on."

On June 3, Murphy, 64, stepped away from a job with the U.S. Department of Justice in St. Paul that began in 1979 in northern Indiana. He came here in 1983.

Two of his more memorable cases involved Ferris Alexander, the infamous porn king of Minnesota, and Harold "Skip" Finn, a former state senator and attorney for the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe.

Alexander was brought down by not paying taxes. The feds were able to prove he had unreported income by asking the bank for all the checks that had been folded a certain way. Murphy said Alexander used different names on the checks, but had a unique way of folding them.

Finn was convicted in 1996 of conspiring to steal about $1 million from the Leech Lake Band -- as well as theft and mail fraud. He was sentenced to nearly five years in prison and fined $100,000.

Murphy moved to the U.S. Virgin Islands in 2005, battling corruption and violence there. It was a tough and dangerous job. At the time, the U.S. Virgin Islands had the highest per capita murder rate in the United States.

Murphy helped start a public corruption task force that resulted in some convictions.

"The work was very challenging," he said. "Police officers and commissioners were indicted."

He returned to Minnesota in January 2010, leading the St. Paul office until his retirement.

Asked what he loved most about his job, Murphy said: "You can have an impact on society and good government."

Regarding retirement, he said he heard even the Dalai Lama say: "At some point, I have to go."

James Walsh • 612-673-7428