Federal Law Enforcement & Investigative Agencies
When cases are prosecuted in federal court, the prosecution is the United States government. Rather than being local police, the law enforcement agencies working with them are federal entities. There are a number of investigative federal agencies. While the FBI is the best known, it’s far from the only one.
Federal Bureau of Investigation
The special agents trained by the FBI are responsible for coordinating and handling every kind of criminal investigation. That includes terrorism, civil rights issues, drug distribution, bank robberies, public corruption, and white collar offenses. There are nearly four hundred resident agencies in the United States and more than fifty filed offices. Internationally, the FBI has over sixty liaison offices spread throughout other countries. FBI headquarters is located in Washington, D.C. About 13,600 individuals are trained special agents for the FBI.
Postal Inspection Service
This is a lesser known but vitally important investigation agency. The United States postal service is a government entity. The inspection service is responsible for investigating any crimes that might have been committed through misusing or abusing the federal postal system.
Some of the crimes being investigated are obvious. For example, if you steal your neighbor’s mail or commit mail fraud, it makes sense that the postal inspection service would be responsible for the investigation. But there are other circumstances where the agency might also get called in to investigate:
- Distribution of drugs through packages or envelopes sent through the mail
- Any conspiracy coordinated or executed through the mail
- Health care fraud through the sending of fraudulent documents via the Postal Service
- Tax evasion including money laundering through the Postal Service or use of the Postal Service to move undeclared income
- Any crime that involved the US Postal Service in any way, at any point
This is one of the smaller federal investigation entities. There are only about 1,500 postal inspectors throughout the entire country. The inspection service has two service centers and eighteen field divisions. It also has a National Headquarters and National Forensic Laboratory.
Postal Inspectors don’t usually investigate cases completely by themselves. They’ll typically partner with another federal agency like the FBI, SEC, or IRS. The inspectors will investigate the pieces of the crime that were committed through the Postal Service and compile evidence.
The Secret Service has been operating as a federal law enforcement entity since 1865. The Secret Service is most famous for protecting the president. They’re also known for protecting the vice president, other government officials, presidential candidates, and select other national officials who require protection. Secret Service agents also provide protection to foreign dignitaries when need be.
What many people today don’t know is that the original purpose of the Secret Service was to lead investigations into counterfeit currency. In addition to providing protection to government officials and foreign diplomats, the Secret Service agents are tasked with investigating all crimes regarding the financial and monetary systems of the US.
The United States economy is an incredibly complex machine, so there’s a lot that’s covered under this. The Secret Service investigates cases of counterfeit currency, identity theft, money laundering, credit card fraud, computer and technology fraud, and financial institution fraud. Over 1,300 Secret Service agents are employed in 136 total field offices across the United States.
Internal Revenue Service
The IRS is responsible for coordinating and tracking taxes, including the collection of people’s taxes, the payment of tax returns, and the use of tax dollars by government institutions. There are multiple branches of the IRS that take care of different aspects of the government’s finances. The Criminal Investigation Division employs special agents that are trained to investigate federal tax offenses.
Some tax offenses are obvious, including money laundering, tax evasion, and flagrant violations of the federal Bank Secrecy Act. But the IRS is also responsible for investigating undeclared income from illegal drug distribution, bank fraud, healthcare fraud, welfare fraud, and other types of fraud.
The IRS has more rules than most other agencies regarding who is allowed to open investigations. Federal prosecutors and agents must first receive permission from headquarters before they can investigate a person’s tax offenses. About 2,600 IRS special agents are employed throughout the United States.
Department of Health and Human Services
There are special agents for the Department of Health and Human Services who have been trained in the investigation of criminal issues regarding federal healthcare. This includes healthcare fraud, which has become more heavily investigated over the past few years. To combat healthcare fraud on a systemic scale, the special agents have developed task forces and prevention teams. About 1,600 of these special agents work in 62 offices around the US. Their focus is on fraud committed against governmental healthcare programs.