While everyone attacks the “feds”, we thought we’d tell you a bit about what they do to actually protect America

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When people hear “Immigration and Customs Enforcement” or ICE, they usually think about arrests and deportations of illegal aliens. That is part of what ICE does, but not all of it. ICE is composed of two operational components:

Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), is primarily responsible for the arrest, detention and removal of those in violation of immigration law.   

The other component of ICE is Homeland Security Investigations, or HSI, the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and responsible for combating transnational criminal organizations that seek to exploit the United States’ trade, travel, and financial systems.

HSI, through its special agents, criminal analysts and mission support professionals, and in partnership with state, local, and other federal entities, conducts thousands of investigations every year, which lead to significant criminal arrests and convictions.

In fiscal year 2019, HSI made over 37,500 criminal arrests.

Not only does HSI have one of the largest domestic and international footprints in US law enforcement, they also have broad legal authority to enforce more than 400 federal statutes. The agency and its personnel are able to investigate all type of cross-border, criminal activity including:

  • Financial crimes, money laundering and bulk cash smuggling
  • Commercial fraud
  • Cultural and intellectual property theft
  • Child exploitation and complex cybercrimes
  • Human rights violations
  • Human smuggling and trafficking
  • Immigration, document and benefit fraud
  • Narcotics and weapons smuggling/trafficking
  • Transnational gang activity
  • Export enforcement

HSI consists of more than 10,300 employees to include 7,100 special agents who are assigned to offices in over 210 cities throughout the U.S. and 80 international offices in 53 countries across the world.

Unique Authorities of HSI:

As the sole investigative agency with unique customs and immigration authorities, in addition to standard criminal and civil law enforcement authorities, HSI investigates the widest range of criminal activity across the crime continuum.

HSI also leverages its vast international footprint when investigating transnational criminal organizations to disrupt these organizations’ supply chains and stop the smuggling of contraband before it reaches US shores. 

When it comes to crimes of human exploitation such as the sexual exploitation of children or human trafficking, HSI takes a victim centered approach.  In the 2019 fiscal year, HSI arrested 3,957 dangerous child predators and identified and/or rescued 1,069 victims of this heinous crime.

In the same time frame, HSI arrested 2,197 criminals associated with human trafficking and identified and/or rescued 428 victims of human trafficking. 

HSI is also the leading federal law enforcement agency when it comes to financial crimes.  Last year, one of its major seizures involved Joaquin Guzman-Loera, also known as “El Chapo”, who along with his prison sentence was ordered to forfeit more than $12.6 billion.

International Property Rights (IPR):

The 2019 fiscal year was another successful time for IPR enforcement with the total number of seizures at 27,599. The total estimated manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of the seized goods, had they been genuine, was over $1.5 billion.

Drug Seizures:

HSI seized more than 12,450 lbs. of opioids in 2019 – a record-breaking amount. HSI also seized more than 3,600 lbs. of fentanyl and made more than 1,900 fentanyl-related arrests, in addition to seizing more than 145,000 lbs. of methamphetamine that same year.

Gangs:

HSI’s National Gang Unit (NGU) oversees agency intelligence integration efforts relating to gang membership, associations, criminal activities and international movements of suspected and known gang members; and provides programmatic, operational and technical support to enhance gang investigations for 30 HSI field offices across the nation, and dozens of HSI attaché offices overseas.

In 2019, HSI gang investigations led to the seizure of more than 820 firearms, and more than 5,500 pounds of illicit narcotics, including heroin, fentanyl, cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana which would have otherwise been destined for U.S. neighborhoods and communities. HSI also made 3,886 criminal gang arrests, including 337 criminal arrests of MS-13 gang members during the same time frame.

These successes are not accomplished by HSI alone. HSI has numerous essential local, state and federal partners who work together seamlessly in protecting our Homeland.  Below are some national and local success stories.

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National HSI Stories:

El Chapo

Through investigations led by HSI offices in New York and Nogales, Arizona, and the coordination efforts of HSI’s attaché in Mexico, HSI gathered significant evidence that was instrumental in the case against Joaquin Guzman-Loera, also known as “El Chapo”, in the United States, for his crimes as the head of the Sinaloa Cartel. HSI worked with the DEA and other federal law enforcement partners to bring about Guzman-Loera’s extradition. HSI shared the evidence gathered in this investigation in the criminal proceedings that followed and resulted in El Chapo being sentenced on July 17, 2019 to life in prison plus 30 years, along with the aforementioned financial forfeiture.

May 5, 2020:

HSI partners with Pfizer, 3M, Citi, Alibaba, Amazon, Merck to protect consumers against COVID-19-related fraud

WASHINGTON, D.C – Industry experts from Pfizer, 3M, Citi, Alibaba, Amazon and Merck have joined forces with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) criminal investigators in an unprecedented public-private partnership to combat fraud and other illegal activity surrounding COVID-19.

HSI Acting Executive Associate Director Alysa D. Erichs said:

“Scammers and other criminals are exploiting this time of anxiety and uncertainty to take advantage of consumers’ fears, and HSI has made it a top priority to investigate anyone attempting to use the COVID-19 pandemic to defraud other people,”

 She went on to say:

 “A robust partnership with the private sector is an absolute requirement to effectively disrupt and dismantle COVID-19 criminal networks and strengthen global supply-chain security.”

 

Here are some Cross-Section of New Jersey-Related HSI Stories:

CHINESE MANUFACTURER CHARGED WITH EXPORTING DEFECTIVE AND MISBRANDED MASKS FALSELY PURPORTING TO BE KN95 RESPIRATORS:

NEWARK, N.J. – A Chinese manufacturer was charged with producing and exporting to the United States in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic over 140,000 mis-branded and defective masks that falsely purported to be KN95 respirators, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced on June 17, 2020.

Crawford Technology Group (HK) Co. LTD. (Crawford) is charged by complaint with violating the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) for causing misbranded and substandard respirators that falsely purported to meet various filtration efficiency standards to be imported into the United States.

Special Agent in Charge, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Newark, Jason Molina, said:

“It is not enough that this pandemic has upended lives around the world and caused countless suffering and hundreds of thousands of deaths,”

He continued:

“In the midst of that, we have companies like this that exploited this tragedy for financial gain and in the process put millions of lives at risk. This case is a good reminder that the combined efforts of the agencies involved in Attorney General Barr’s Task Force have a very long reach to track and charge those who commit such wrongdoing. In addition, for HSI this fulfills the mission of Operation Stolen Promise to rout out COVID related fraud in all its many forms.”

Eighteen People Charged in Connection with Drug Trafficking Ring:

CAMDEN, N.J. – Eighteen people have been charged for their alleged roles in a drug trafficking organization that distributed fentanyl, heroin, and cocaine in Camden, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced on June 18, 2020.

Eleven defendants were arrested and are scheduled to appear June 19, 2020, by videoconference before U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen M. Williams: Angel Rodriguez, 30; Manuel Bonilla, 35; Anderlis Martinez-Espinal, 19; Miguel Rodriguez, 27, Julio Medina, 29; Janet Lorenzo, 47; Normali Santiago, 36; Ray Santos, 35, all of Camden; Franklin Lorenzo-Gonzalez, 25, of Pennsauken, New Jersey; Bernardo Carambot, 36, and Alberto Perez, 26, both of Philadelphia.

Various law enforcement agencies were credited, including FBI, NJ State Police and HSI Newark, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Jason Molina.

Rico Case Involving MS-13:

On October 8, 2019, HSI Newark reported the sentencing of Aris Tejada-Ventura, a Dominican national, for violations concerning a Racketeering Conspiracy. Tejada-Ventura was sentenced to 22 years federal incarceration for conspiring to commit Murder in Aid of Racketeering, Assault with a Dangerous Weapon in Aid of Racketeering and Conspiring to Harbor Aliens for Financial Gain. This sentence will run concurrent with a New Jersey State sentence of 20 years which Tejada-Ventura received for committing murder in Cumberland County.

On February 23, 2017, HSI Newark agents reported the arrest of Aris Tejada-Ventura, pursuant to Operation Lunch Break-New Brunswick. Tejada-Ventura was charged with aiding and abetting Juan Fredy Hernandez-Zozaya, and others to conceal, harbor, and shield from detection aliens for the purpose of commercial advantage and private financial gain. Tejada-Ventura was remanded to the custody of the US Marshal Service.

Angel Watch Program Keeping Children Safe:

NEWARK, NJ — HSI Newark announced Dec. 6, 2019 that agency arrests for child exploitation have increased for Fiscal Year 2019 over last year. Locally, there was a 28.9% increase in convictions for child exploitation cases in New Jersey, from 84 in 2018 to 107 in 2019.

In addition, six victims of child exploitation were identified and assisted by HSI Newark. HSI Newark also announced that it actively participates in the Angel Watch Program (AWP), which targets individuals previously convicted of sexual crimes against a child, and who may pose a threat of committing child sex tourism.

Forging a New Legacy:

Today, HSI carries out its mission in an increasingly complex world that poses immense technical challenges to America’s homeland security. In April of 2020, HSI announced the launch of Operation Stolen Promise to combat COVID-19 related fraud and other criminal activity. HSI special agents have opened investigations nationwide, seized millions of dollars in illicit proceeds; made multiple arrests; and shutdown thousands of fraudulent websites.

HSI continues to work alongside U.S. Customs and Border Protection to seize shipments of mislabeled, fraudulent, unauthorized or prohibited COVID-19 test kits, treatment kits, homeopathic remedies, and purported anti-viral products and personal protective equipment (PPE).  The launch of the operation is in direct response to the significant increase in criminal activity.

HSI’s overall tasks are daunting but the agency has risen to the challenge with intelligence, flexibility and commitment to excellence. Indeed, HSI has proven that it will continue to achieve the goal that has become its motto – to forge a new legacy of honor, service and integrity.

 

By Jason Molina, Special Agent in Charge, HSI, Newark, NJ

 

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