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The IRS Criminal Investigation Division (CID) Explained

The IRS Criminal Investigation Division (CID) Explained

The IRS Criminal Investigation Division—also known as IRS-CI or just CI—is like the FBI but for financial crimes. They investigate and build cases against people who commit tax fraud, money laundering, and other financial crimes. Let’s break down exactly what CI does and how they operate—because this division of the IRS is shrouded in mystery for most people.

What is the mission of IRS-CI?

The main goal of CI is to enforce tax laws—they want to catch the bad guys who are deliberately breaking tax laws and cheating the system. Their motto is: “Investigate, Prosecute, Incarcerate.” So you can see they mean business!

Specifically, CI targets financial crimes like:

  • Tax evasion (not paying taxes you owe)
  • Filing false returns (lying about income, expenses, etc. on your tax return)
  • Identity theft (using someone else’s identity to file tax returns and collect refunds)
  • Money laundering (disguising the source of illegally obtained money)
  • Terrorist financing
  • Public corruption (bribery of public officials)

They also investigate other financial crimes if they relate to tax administration in some way—like wire fraud, bankruptcy fraud, and securities fraud.

Why is CI part of the IRS?

IRS-CI is the only federal agency that can investigate potential criminal violations of the tax code. They have special legal authority to obtain tax information and financial records that other agencies don’t have access to. This gives them a huge advantage in building tax crime cases.

Being part of the IRS also means they have tax experts on staff who understand complex financial transactions that may be used to evade taxes. And they can tap into the full resources of the IRS during investigations.

What types of agents work for CI?

CI agents are called special agents. They go through extensive training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers in Georgia. The training includes:

Christine Twomey
Christine Twomey
2024-03-21
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Brendan huisman
Brendan huisman
2024-03-18
Alex Zhik contacted me almost immediately when I reached out to Spodek for a consultation and was able to effectively communicate the path forward/consequences of my legal issue. I immediately agreed to hire Alex for his services and did not regret my choice. He was able to cover my case in court (with 1 day notice) and not only was he able to push my case down, he carefully negotiated a dismissal of the charge altogether. I highly recommend Spodek, and more specifically, Alex Zhik for all of your legal issues. Thanks guys!
Guerline Menard
Guerline Menard
2024-03-18
Thanks again Spodek law firm, particularly Esq Claire Banks who stood right there with us up to the finish line. Attached photos taken right outside of the court building and the smile on our faces represented victory, a breath of fresh air and satisfaction. We are very happy that this is over and we can move on with our lives. Thanks Spodek law 🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙌🏼❤️
Keisha Parris
Keisha Parris
2024-03-15
Believe every single review here about Alex Z!! From our initial consultation, it was evident that Alex possessed a profound understanding of criminal law and a fierce dedication to his clients rights. Throughout the entirety of my case, Alex exhibited unparalleled professionalism and unwavering commitment. What sets Alex apart is not only his legal expertise but also his genuine compassion for his clients. He took the time to thoroughly explain my case, alleviating any concerns I had along the way. His exact words were “I’m not worried about it”. His unwavering support and guidance were invaluable throughout the entire process. I am immensely grateful for Alex's exceptional legal representation and wholeheartedly recommend his services to anyone in need of a skilled criminal defense attorney. Alex Z is not just a lawyer; he is a beacon of hope for those navigating the complexities of the legal system. If you find yourself in need of a dedicated and competent legal advocate, look no further than Alex Z.
Taïko Beauty
Taïko Beauty
2024-03-15
I don’t know where to start, I can write a novel about this firm, but one thing I will say is that having my best interest was their main priority since the beginning of my case which was back in Winter 2019. Miss Claire Banks, one of the best Attorneys in the firm represented me very well and was very professional, respectful, and truthful. Not once did she leave me in the dark, in fact she presented all options and routes that could possibly be considered for my case and she reinsured me that no matter what I decided to do, her and the team will have my back and that’s exactly what happened. Not only will I be liberated from this case, also, I will enjoy my freedom and continue to be a mother to my first born son and will have no restrictions with accomplishing my goals in life. Now that’s what I call victory!! I thank the Lord, My mother, Claire, and the Spodek team for standing by me and fighting with me. Words can’t describe how grateful I am to have the opportunity to work with this team. I’m very satisfied, very pleased with their performance, their hard work, and their diligence. Thank you team!
Anthony Williams
Anthony Williams
2024-03-12
Hey, how you guys doing? Good afternoon my name is Anthony Williams I just want to give a great shout out to the team of. Spodek law group. It is such a honor to use them and to use their assistance through this whole case from start to finish. They did everything that they said they was gonna do and if it ever comes down to it, if I ever have to use them again, hands-down they will be the first law office at the top of my list, thank you guys so much. It was a pleasure having you guys by my side so if you guys ever need them, do not hesitate to pick up the phone and give them a call.
Loveth Okpedo
Loveth Okpedo
2024-03-12
Very professional, very transparent, over all a great experience
Bee L
Bee L
2024-02-28
Amazing experience with Spodek! Very professional lawyers who take your case seriously. They treated me with respect, were always available, and answered any and all questions. They were able to help me very successfully and removed a huge stress. Highly recommend.
divesh patel
divesh patel
2024-02-24
I can't recommend Alex Zhik and Spodek Law Firm highly enough for their exceptional legal representation and personal mentorship. From the moment I engaged their services in October 2022, Alex took the time to understand my case thoroughly and provided guidance every step of the way. Alex's dedication to my case went above and beyond my expectations. His expertise, attention to detail, and commitment to achieving the best possible outcome were evident throughout the entire process. He took the time to mentor me, ensuring I understood the legal complexities involved to make informed decisions. Alex is the kind of guy you would want to have a beer with and has made a meaningful impact on me. I also want to acknowledge Todd Spodek, the leader of the firm, who played a crucial role in my case. His leadership and support bolstered the efforts of Alex, and his involvement highlighted the firm's commitment to excellence. Thanks to Alex Zhik and Todd Spodek, I achieved the outcome I desired, and I am incredibly grateful for their professionalism, expertise, and genuine care. If you're in need of legal representation, look no further than this outstanding team.
  • 10 weeks of criminal investigation training covering federal criminal procedures and prosecution
  • 8 weeks of tax law, accounting, financial analysis, ethics, undercover techniques, and informant development
  • Exams in accounting, tax, and legal topics
  • Firearms, defensive tactics, and arrest authority training

Unlike typical IRS employees, CI special agents carry firearms, make arrests, and execute search warrants. They are essentially financial investigators with police powers!

How does CI conduct investigations?

CI uses both reactive and proactive investigative techniques to build cases.

Reactive investigations

Reactive cases start from external leads like:

  • Tips reported through the IRS tip line
  • Suspicious activity identified by IRS civil divisions
  • Information from other law enforcement agencies

CI thoroughly vets all leads to determine if a full investigation is warranted. They prioritize cases with the highest tax loss and most egregious violations.

Proactive investigations

CI also conducts proactive investigations aimed at particular types of crimes:

  • Narcotics-related financial crimes – CI targets drug trafficking groups and investigates how they hide and launder their money.
  • Counter-terrorism – CI investigates groups and individuals that use tax-exempt entities to finance terrorism.
  • Public corruption – CI investigates bribery of public officials and fraudulent activities by government employees.
  • Organized crime – CI investigates organized crime groups involved in tax and money laundering crimes.

For proactive cases, CI analyzes data to identify patterns of suspicious activity. They also receive tips from informants.

What investigative tools does CI use?

CI has a wide range of lawful investigative techniques available:

  • Surveillance – Physical and electronic surveillance to gather evidence.
  • Undercover operations – CI agents go undercover to infiltrate criminal groups.
  • Informants – CI develops informants within criminal networks.
  • Interviews – CI interrogates suspects and witnesses.
  • Search warrants – CI seizes evidence by raiding property.
  • Email/phone records – CI obtains communication records with subpoenas.
  • Financial records – CI uses subpoenas, summons, and search warrants to obtain financial documents.
  • Trash searches – CI legally searches a target’s trash for evidence.

CI uses these techniques to gather documents, records, communications, and physical evidence. The evidence is used to “connect the dots” and prove tax crimes.

When does CI bring in prosecutors?

For criminal prosecutions, CI partners with the Tax Division of the Department of Justice. CI brings them into complex investigations early on to provide guidance.

Later in an investigation, CI will present the case to prosecutors who decide whether to pursue criminal charges. CI continues assisting prosecutors until a case goes to trial. They help prep witnesses, provide testimony, and serve as financial experts during trial.

Prosecutors rely heavily on CI’s expertise to explain complex financial evidence and transactions to the jury. CI agents are often the backbone of the prosecution’s case.

What happens after a conviction?

After a successful conviction, CI special agents play a role in the sentencing phase as well.

CI provides a sentencing report to the court detailing the nature and extent of the crimes. This report is used to calculate penalties, restitution, and prison sentences.

CI also assists with forfeiture proceedings to seize assets and property obtained from illegal activity. They help identify and trace assets that can be seized.

How does CI interact with taxpayers under investigation?

Dealing with CI is very different from a routine IRS audit. Here are some key things to know:

  • CI only investigates potential criminal violations—not civil tax issues.
  • You may be unaware you are under criminal investigation at first.
  • CI can show up unannounced at your home or business with a search warrant.
  • CI can monitor your communications and activity without advanced notice.
  • CI interrogations feel like police interrogations—you have the right to an attorney.
  • CI builds cases methodically over months or years—their goal is prosecution.

If you find out you’re under CI investigation, it’s critical to hire an experienced tax defense attorney immediately. The early stages of a CI probe are when defense lawyers can be most effective.

A skilled tax attorney knows how to assert your rights, protect your interests, and start mounting a defense early on. Don’t try going it alone against CI’s experienced special agents—they conviction rate is over 90% for a reason.

What are some key CI statistics and facts?

  • CI has over 2,600 special agents across the U.S.
  • In 2021, CI initiated over 2,500 cases and recommended prosecution in over 1,700 cases.
  • The conviction rate for CI investigations is over 90%.
  • CI investigations in 2021 identified over $10 billion in tax fraud and led to seizures of over $3.5 billion in assets.
  • The average prison sentence in CI cases is over 2 years.

As you can see, CI is aggressively pursuing tax cheats and financial criminals. If you’re ever contacted by them, tread carefully and seek professional legal help immediately. CI should not be taken lightly!

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