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What We Investigate

What We Investigate

.FBI Agent Collects Evidence from Exploded Car (AP Photo)

The FBI works around the globe to combat the most dangerous criminal and security threats facing our country—from international and domestic terrorists to spies on U.S. soil…from cyber villains to corrupt government officials…from mobsters to violent street thugs…from child predators to serial killers.

We currently have jurisdiction over violations in more than 200 categories of federal law. They generally fall under our three national security priorities and our five criminal priorities as follows:

National Security Priorities:

1. Protect the United States from terrorist attack

The Houston Division dedicates a significant amount of time, attention, and resources to its number one investigative mission—counterterrorism.

Spearheading this effort is the Houston Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), made up of representatives of 35 local, state, and federal agencies who work shoulder to shoulder to investigate and prevent acts of terrorism. By pooling their wide-ranging expertise and resources, the men and women of a JTTF can be more effective and efficient than any single agency working alone.

The Houston Division JTTF was launched in 1987 and was the second terror task force in the nation, following New York in 1980. Its members regularly work with local first-responder law enforcement and emergency management agencies. Due to its collaborative nature, the task force is able to quickly identify emerging issues and to mobilize when necessary to address threats. It also collects, shares, and uses intelligence that is absolutely critical to local and national terrorism prevention efforts. JTTF offices are located strategically throughout our territory along the Texas Gulf Coast.

The work of the Houston JTTF is strengthened by the Houston Field Intelligence Group, which collects, assesses, validates, and shares timely intelligence both locally and with the U.S. intelligence community.

For more information on the FBI’s national efforts to prevent terrorist attacks, see our Counterterrorism webpage. And see our Press Room for current cases and our Houston History page for past investigations.

2. Protect the United States against foreign intelligence operations and espionage

Today, spies from around the world—not just traditional adversaries, but also allies, hackers, and terrorists—are trying to steal more of our secrets than ever before. Spies are after our nation’s most prized asset—classified information—including our country’s military systems and vulnerabilities in our national security. Spies have also turned to collecting our nation’s trade secrets, everything from projects still in the research and development phase…to technologies that could be used in weapons of mass destruction. Spies are a major threat to our way of life.

In the Houston Division, our foreign counterintelligence program is organized into specialized units that focus on specific threats. These units work tirelessly to keep weapons of mass destruction, secrets of the U.S. government (including the intelligence community), critical national assets, and sensitive technologies from falling into the wrong hands. We have developed strategic partnerships with area institutions to increase awareness of the efforts of insiders and other nations to obtain our technology. We also proactively gather information and intelligence to strengthen the national threat picture.

For more information on the FBI’s national program, see our Counterintelligence webpage. And see our Press Room for current cases and our Houston History page for past investigations.

3. Protect the United States against cyber-based attacks and high-technology crimes

The FBI leads the national effort to investigate high-tech crimes, including cyber-based terrorism and espionage, computer and network intrusions, and major cyber fraud and identify theft. To stay in front of current and emerging trends, we gather and share information and intelligence with public and private sector partners worldwide.

In Houston, we have a squad dedicated to cyber crimes and attacks, and we participate in a variety of multi-agency partnerships, including the Houston Area Cyber Crimes Task Force. See our Partnerships webpage for details.

For more information on the FBI’s national efforts, see our Cyber Investigations webpage. And see our Press Room for current cases and our Houston History page for past investigations.

Criminal Priorities

4. Combat public corruption at all levels

Corruption in government threatens our country’s democracy and national security, impacting everything from how well our borders are secured and our neighborhoods protected…to verdicts handed down in courts…to the quality of our roads and schools. And it takes a significant toll on our pocketbooks, too, wasting billions of tax dollars every year.

Specifically, public corruption investigations are any criminal cases under any classification where it is alleged that a public official (elected, appointed, or under contract), and/or a private individual has or is engaged in a corrupt scheme that involves a direct or indirect abuse of the public official’s trust and/or undermines the integrity of federal, state, or local government operations in violation of federal law.

Our corruption investigations in Houston focus on federal violations in the following sub-programs:

  • Public corruption: corruption of federal, state, or local officials, conflict of interest/bribery, election crimes, violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, obstruction of justice, and perjury;
  • Government fraud: antitrust and fraud against the government; and
  • Hobbs Act violations: primarily used to prosecute local government officials and involving the following three elements—public official received something that he/she was not entitled to, payment was made under “color of official right,” and violation had an impact on interstate commerce.

To coordinate and implement a comprehensive investigative strategy, the Houston Public Corruption squad has established partnerships with the Offices of the Inspector General in the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the CIA, and NASA. We also work closely with the Public Integrity Section in the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice, which oversees the federal effort to combat corruption through the prosecution of elected and appointed public officials at all levels of the government.

We need your help in combating corruption at all levels of the government. Please report potential abuses and crimes by contacting our office or by submitting an online tip.

For more information on the FBI’s national efforts, see our Public Corruption webpage. And see our Press Room for current cases and our Houston History page for past investigations.

5. Protect civil rights

Civil rights are defined as rights belonging to an individual, especially the fundamental freedoms and privileges guaranteed by the 13th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and by subsequent acts of Congress addressing civil liberties, due process, equal protection of the laws, and freedom from discrimination.

The FBI is the lead agency for investigating violations of federal civil rights laws…and we take that responsibility seriously. Specifically, we aggressively investigate and work to prevent hate crime, color of law abuses, human trafficking, and freedom of access to clinic entrances violations—the four top priorities of our civil rights program. We focus on all of these issues in Houston.

For more information on our overall efforts, see our Civil Rights webpage. Visit our Press Room for current cases and our Houston History page for past in vestigations. You can also consult the following websites for more information on civil rights issues:

6. Combat transnational/national criminal organizations and enterprises

Criminal organizations—from mob families to street gangs to drug trafficking outfits—sow violence and crime in our communities and create underground economies that undercut free enterprise.

Most of our work in this priority throughout the Houston Division focuses on violent gangs and drugs through a variety of law enforcement partnerships. See our Partnerships webpage for details.

Learn more about our national work to combat organized crime and violent street gangs. And see our Press Room for current cases and our Houston History page for past investigations.

7. Combat major white-collar crime

Fraud—the art of deliberate deception for unlawful gain—is as old as history; the term “white-collar crime” was reportedly coined in 1939 and has since become synonymous with the full range of frauds committed by business and government professionals. Today’s financial criminals and con artists are more savvy and sophisticated than ever, engineering everything from complex stock and health care frauds and intellectual property rip-offs.

We have two squads dedicated to fighting white-collar crime in the Houston region. The first focuses generally on fraud; the second targets health care fraud.

A key focus in the Houston Division is corporate fraud—the falsification of the financial information of public and private corporations designed to inflate profit, hide losses, or evade regulatory oversight. One of the largest corporate fraud cases in U.S. history—the Enron investigation—was led by FBI Houston. Though not as widely publicized as the Enron case, we investigate many other white-collar crimes, including investment fraud, “pump and dump” scams, Pyramid schemes, “risk-free” frauds, off-shore frauds, wire fraud, and mail fraud.

For more information, see our White-Collar Crime webpage. And see our Press Room for current cases and our Houston History page for past investigations.

8. Combat significant violent crime

Even with our post-9/11 national security responsibilities, we continue to play a key role in combating violent crime in big cities and local communities across the United States. Beyond our work targeting violent gangs and other criminal enterprises, we focus on such issues as crimes against children (including online predators), crime on Indian reservations, the search for wanted fugitives, serial killings, kidnapping, murder for hire, bank robberies, and special crimes like the carriage of weapons on aircraft and crime on the high seas.

In the Houston Division, violent gangs, the search for wanted fugitives, serial killings, crimes against children, kidnapping, and bank robberies are just a few of the crime issues that we deal with on a day-to-day basis. We address these threats by maintaining close relationships with local, state, and federal partner agencies, including through the Major Theft Task Force, the Multi-Agency Gang Task Force, and the Houston Violent Crime Task Force. See our Partnerships page for more details.

For more details on our overall national efforts, see our Violent Crime and Major Thefts webpage. And see our Press Room for current cases and our Houston History page for past investigations.