Wednesday, April 11, 2007

FBI focus on counterterrorism leads to increase in unprosecuted fraud and identity theft

With the FBI being directed to focus its attention on counterterrorism, its investigations of fraud, identity theft, civil rights violations, and crime in general have plummeted:
-- Overall, the number of criminal cases investigated by the FBI nationally has steadily declined. In 2005, the bureau brought slightly more than 20,000 cases to federal prosecutors, compared with about 31,000 in 2000 -- a 34 percent drop.

-- White-collar crime investigations by the bureau have plummeted in recent years. In 2005, the FBI sent prosecutors 3,500 cases -- a fraction of the more than 10,000 cases assigned to agents in 2000....

-- Civil rights investigations, which include hate crimes and police abuse, have continued a steady decline since the late 1990s. FBI agents pursued 65 percent fewer cases in 2005 than they did in 2000.


"There's a niche of fraudsters that are floating around unprosecuted," said one recently retired top FBI official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "They are not going to jail. There is no law enforcement solution in sight."...

By the time the bureau started putting together its fiscal 2007 budget in mid-2005, "we realized we were going to have to pull out of some areas -- bank fraud, investment fraud, ID theft -- cases that protect the financial infrastructure of the country," [Dale Watson, who left in 2002 as the FBI's executive assistant director over counterterrorism programs] said...

[FBI Assistant Director Chip Burrus] acknowledges that the bureau has reduced its efforts to fight fraud. He likened the FBI's current fraud-enforcement policies -- in which losses below $150,000 have little chance of being addressed -- to "triage." Even cases with losses approaching $500,000 are much less likely to be accepted for investigation than before 9/11, he said.

There is "no question" that America's financial losses from frauds below $150,000 amount to billions a year, Burrus said. The top security official for a major American bank agreed, saying unprosecuted fraud losses easily total "multibillions."

Is America safer?

(Via TPM Muckraker.)

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