FBI Executive Asst. Director Ashley on Interrnal Audits and FBI Priorities

Institute of Interntal Auditors addressed by FBI's Ashley during fraud seminar

As you may know, the FBI investigates everything from major corporate fraud to money laundering. I mainly want to discuss our work in the area of combating corporate fraud - but let me give you a brief overview of some of the other threats we are confronting.

Public corruption is at the top of the list. We have all heard the expression "the love of money is the root of all evil." I don't know if this is true, but it is certainly the root of all public corruption. Unfortunately, there has always been a small number of individuals whose desire to make money overshadowed the desire to serve.

Corrupt public officials betray the trust of our society and threaten the foundations of our democracy. They allow illicit drugs and weapons to flow freely; they permit organized crime to operate with impunity; and they can open the door for terrorists who threaten our way of life. This is why public corruption is the FBI's No. 1 criminal priority.

As I said earlier, we have over 500 agents working on public corruption squads across the country. Just this month we formed a new public corruption task force in western New York. From Philadelphia to Phoenix and from Dallas to Detroit, we are investigating and rooting out corruption ranging from voter fraud to embezzlement to illegal kickbacks. We currently have over 940 open investigations targeting corrupt officials. In the last 12 months, we have indicted 469 public officials and convicted 634.

One of our most notable recent successes is "Operation Lively Green." You may have read the latest installment of this case in the weekend papers. In Arizona, we worked with federal law enforcement agencies and the Tucson Police Department on a three-and-a-half-year undercover operation targeting extensive public corruption along the U.S.-Mexico border. Current and former U.S. military and law enforcement officers were participating in what they believed was an illegal narcotics trafficking organization.

Though no drugs actually changed hands or crossed the border, the officers accepted over $800,000 in bribes to transport cocaine from undercover agents posing as drug traffickers. Some individuals also accepted cash bribes to recruit other public officials to help the fake drug ring. So far, dozens of officers have pled guilty to charges of bribery, extortion, and conspiracy, and we anticipate more indictments in the future.

On another front, identity theft has become one of the dominant white collar crime problems. You've probably all seen the Citibank commercials that feature the faces of identity theft victims speaking with the voices of credit card thieves, who list all the outlandish purchases they have made, saying, "It's not like I'm paying for it anyway."

They make us laugh, but they also drive home the point that anyone can be a victim of identity theft. A recent Federal Trade Commission survey revealed that about 4.6 percent of U.S. consumers have been victimized, resulting in losses of more than $52 billion. All too often, criminals steal identities and then commit other crimes, such as credit card fraud, check fraud, or mortgage fraud.

The FBI has been working with federal, state, local, and private sector partners to address this rapidly growing problem. Right here in Chicago, the Chicago Metro Identity Fraud Task Force has been instrumental in obtaining 11 indictments and 37 prosecutions. And in New York, the FBI teamed up with the Postal Inspection Service and the Secret Service to successfully investigate one of the largest identity theft cases ever prosecuted in the U.S.