IRS-Criminal Investigation report highlights investigation into overdose of Grand Forks teen

IRS-CI releases FY22 annual report
IRS-CI releases FY22 annual report(none)
Published: Nov. 3, 2022 at 8:38 PM CDT
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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - In fiscal year 2022 (FY22), IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) initiated more than 2,550 criminal investigations, identified more than $31 billion from tax and financial crimes and obtained a 90.6% conviction rate on cases accepted for prosecution.

The IRS-CI is the criminal investigative arm of the Internal Revenue Service. The agency has 20 field offices located across the U.S. The field office’s Fargo office investigated Steven Barros Pinto who was sentenced to 33 years in jail for his part in drug trafficking and money laundering conspiracies.

Pinto was part of a Rhode Island organization that was receiving fentanyl from Canada and China. After a five-week trial, the jury returned guilty verdicts against Pinto on various drug trafficking charges. The case is part of “Operation Denial,” an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation into the international trafficking of fentanyl. The investigation began in Grand Forks on January 3, 2015, with the overdose death of teenager Bailey Henke.

Operation Denial led to criminal charges against 31 defendants in North Dakota and three in Oregon. The investigation resulted in the forfeiture of nearly $1 million in cash and property from members of the organization.

The IRS-CI FY22 Annual Report, released Thursday, details these statistics, as well as important partnerships and significant criminal enforcement actions from the past fiscal year, which began Oct. 1, 2021, and ended Sept. 30, 2022. In FY 22, field office agents investigated a wide variety of financial crimes involving everything from tax evasion to drug trafficking and money laundering.

“The special agents of IRS-CI are the most skilled financial investigators in the world at determining where money originated and where it went. The cases highlighted in this report represent some of the more creative ways criminals used to violate the nation’s tax law,” said St. Louis Field Office Acting Special Agent in Charge, Thomas Murdock. “The craftier criminals become, the more determined we are to track them down and hold them accountable.”

In FY22, IRS-CI expanded partnerships with foreign counterparts to help combat tax and financial crimes on a global level. IRS-CI special agents delivered trainings in countries like Argentina, Germany, Colombia, and Palau on topics ranging from cybercrime to human trafficking. IRS-CI Mexico City, after changes to Mexico law that enabled the extradition of tax fugitives, launched an initiative to identify fugitives who had absconded to Mexico and nearby countries. This initiative resulted in the location of 79 criminal fugitives and the apprehension of eight during the first year.

IRS-CI joined Taskforce Kleptocapture in March 2022 to target Russian oligarchs and other sanctions-evaders. It also worked with the Chiefs of Global Tax Enforcement (J5) to identify potential sanction evaders or sanctioned assets as part of a global strategy to deter Russia’s aggression. As of September 2022, the agency had identified nearly 50 individuals and entities for potential sanctions-related enforcement.

IRS-CI’s 2,077 special agents spent about 70% of their time investigating tax-related crimes like tax evasion and tax fraud during FY22, while nearly 30% of their time was spent on money laundering and drug trafficking cases. Special agents identified over $31 billion from tax and financial crimes, and the agency seized assets valued at approximately $7 billion in FY22. IRS-CI is the only U.S. federal law enforcement agency that focuses 100% on financial investigations.

“Our team follows the money,” said IRS-CI Chief Jim Lee. “We’ve been doing it for more than 100 years, and we’ve followed criminals into the dark web and now into the metaverse. Tax and other financial crimes know no borders. If you violate the law and end up in the crosshairs of an IRS-CI special agent, you are likely going to jail.”

The report also includes additional case examples for each U.S. field office, an overview of IRS-CI’s international footprint, details about the specialized services provided by IRS-CI and investigative statistics, broken down by discipline, for FY22.