IRS Criminal Investigation Division Highlights Successes
A Message from James C. Lee, Chief Criminal Investigation
IRS Criminal Investigation Marks International Fraud Awareness Week Highlighting Successes From FY20 (This was previously posted by the IRS Highlighting Fraud Awareness Week In December)
This week we recognize International Fraud Awareness Week by highlighting our many successes in combating fraud and protecting taxpayers. Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of publishing our FY 2020 Annual report which focuses on business results and successes from the previous fiscal year. This year was different as half of the year was spent under the new realities that COVID-19 has brought us. Court appearances were virtual and significantly delayed as judicial districts around the country came up with creative ways to be safe and keep the work moving. Interviewing taxpayers took on new challenges with PPE while search warrants also brought about a new list of precautions, we must take to protect all involved.
Through all of these challenges, I’m extremely proud of the results we were able to attain. For example, we opened more investigations in FY20 than we did in FY19 in most of our program areas, our conviction rate is still the highest in federal law enforcement, and we are the go-to agency for complex financial investigations in the world.
Peeling back the numbers, there are several reasons for our successes. Our investment in cybercrimes and data analytics has positioned us to be at the forefront of cases involving cryptocurrency and tracing those transactions. Our partnerships with the J5—the Joint Chiefs of Global Tax Enforcement—are now seeing enforcement results. Our outreach to the public is reducing the number of potential victims from falling prey to fraud schemes. And our ability to share, ingest, use data from our federal partners with our Nationally Coordinated Investigations Unit (NCIU) has enabled us to anticipate certain criminal schemes and react with unprecedented speed to investigate and stop additional financial fraud from happening.
International Fraud Awareness Week is a global effort to minimize the impact of fraud, including tax fraud, by promoting anti-fraud awareness and education. The IRS’s efforts to combat tax and other financial fraud help protect taxpayers around the world and highlight how important fraud prevention is to society. Each case we bring represents more than one person going to jail. The vast network of people affected by various frauds can be staggering. One case can mean millions of dollars that was used to perpetrate some form of fraud instead of helping American business owners who are struggling to stay on their feet. One case can mean hundreds of hours spent by government agencies processing paperwork for criminals instead of processing legitimate business owner’s requests. One case can mean thousands of hours spent by law enforcement chasing down criminals who exploited the relief programs rather than working on other types of criminal cases. One case can have incredible impacts around the world.
Equally as important as putting fraudsters in jail is the education piece of fraud awareness week. During a global pandemic, criminals pop up with new schemes trying to take advantage of individuals during their most vulnerable times. There is no morality among criminals. It is a special kind of evil to steal from someone who is already struggling. That’s why, in addition to launching an aggressive campaign to combat this criminal behavior, we also launched an aggressive public education campaign, conducting more than 200 media interviews and outreach events to warn the public of the various schemes we are seeing.
One of the buzzwords you hear a lot is about partnerships with government – public-private partnerships, international partnerships, federal-state partnerships. I can tell you that the cooperation the IRS is leading in many of these areas rivals the best we have ever seen in government. Different agencies and organizations bring different areas of expertise, and the result of our cooperation is bad news for the criminals. Working together is no longer a novel concept – it is something we do every day. Public-private partnerships are no longer an exception, they are the rule. And our international partnerships, like those with our J5 partners—they suck the oxygen out of the space where criminals operate.
I could not be prouder of the special agents of IRS Criminal Investigation and our efforts to combat fraud on a global scale. While there is a long way to go before we take a victory lap, I also know that we are on the right path to make a real difference.