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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.

The Birmingham Division has eight squads that investigate a full range of federal offenses. 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
  2. Protect the United States against foreign intelligence operations and espionage 
  3. Protect the United States against cyber-based attacks and high-technology crimes

Criminal Priorities:

  1. Combat public corruption at all levels 
  2. Protect civil rights 
  3. Combat transnational/national criminal organizations and enterprises 
  4. Combat major white-collar crime 
  5. Combat significant violent crime

National Security Priorities

1. Protect the United States from terrorist attack

Our counterterrorism squad leads terrorism investigations and conducts sensitive intelligence investigations regarding domestic and international terrorism. It uses a variety of resources to help prevent catastrophic terrorist events from occurring and works closely with a range of partners at the local, state, and national levels—as well as throughout the international arena—to ensure that mutual efforts are coordinated.

North Alabama Joint Terrorism Task Force logoThe North Alabama Joint Terrorism Force’s (NAJTTF) works to prevent, detect, deter, and investigate attacks perpetrated by domestic and international terrorists in the Northern District of Alabama.

The Birmingham Field Intelligence Group strives to optimally position the FBI to meet current and emerging national security and criminal threats by proactively aiming core investigative efforts against these threats. It creates and sustains enterprise-wide intelligence solutions and human and technical capabilities and provides useful, relevant, and timely information and analysis to the FBI, to homeland security partners, and to the intelligence and law enforcement communities.

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

Today, more foreign spies—not just traditional adversaries but also allies, hackers, and terrorists—are trying to steal more of our secrets from more places than ever before. What do they want? Our country’s juiciest classified information, of course—from military plans to national security vulnerabilities to our own intelligence activities. But increasingly, they also want our country’s trade secrets—innovations that give us a leg up in the global marketplace—and seemingly harmless technologies that could be used to develop or improve weapons of mass destruction.

In Birmingham, our foreign counterintelligence squad collects, analyzes, and utilizes information to identify and neutralize activities of foreign powers and their agents that could adversely affect U.S. national security.

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

The Birmingham cyber crime squad investigates computer intrusions, attacks on computer systems and networks, data loss or data manipulations, Internet website defacements, online fraud, and identity theft. This squad also performs forensic exams and analysis of computers and computer systems.

Individuals/companies who are victims of Internet fraud are encouraged to report all incidents to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) at www.ic3.gov. The IC3 then forwards each report to the respective FBI field office for action, if warranted. Even if no investigative action is taken, all reports are maintained by the IC3, and all separate reports regarding one individual or organization can be compiled and used in future investigations.

infragard_logo.jpgOur cyber crime squad is also very active in the local InfraGard chapter. InfraGard is a partnership between private industry and the FBI that encourages the direct exchange of information on cyber intrusions, exploited vulnerabilities, and infrastructure threats. Each chapter includes representatives from the FBI, other government agencies, private industry infrastructure owners and operators, and the academic community. Visit the Birmingham InfraGard website for more information.

Criminal Priorities

4. Combat public corruption at all levels

Public corruption is a breach of the public’s trust by government officials—whether elected, appointed, or under contract—and/or private individuals who use their public office for personal gain.

It is a violation of federal law for any federal or state government official to ask for or receive anything of value for or because of any official act. Under federal law, the person who offers or pays a bribe is also guilty. These crimes are the result of deals sealed with whispered conversations, quick handshakes, and “under-the-table” money. Because of the secretive nature of bribes, such crimes are often difficult to detect and even more difficult to prove without the assistance of concerned citizens. As a result, we have set up a public corruption hotline for public tips at (877) 628-2533.

See our public corruption questionnaires for contract corruption, economic stimulus, and government fraud. If you answer yes to any of these questions, you are strongly encouraged to call or e-mail the FBI.

Types of public corruption include:

  • Law Enforcement corruption at the state or local level typically involves the payment of bribes or kickbacks in exchange for official actions or inaction. It also includes any violation of law not necessarily connected to the official duties of law enforcement personnel, such as stealing drugs; tipping criminals to investigations; escorting deliveries of drugs or other contraband; protecting criminal enterprises, including drug organizations; embezzling funds; and releasing law enforcement records without authorization.
  • Legislative corruption at the state or local level usually involves payment of bribes or kickbacks in exchange for official action or inaction. These bribes or kickbacks can be received by the legislators themselves, by aides, by staff persons, and/or by outside parties doing business with the government.
  • Municipal corruption involves illegal activities similar to legislative corruption. Common corruption schemes at a local level include bribes or kickbacks in exchange for: supporting local ordinances, approving local government bond issuance, reducing taxes unlawfully, fraudulently manipulating probate assets, and conspiring with others to rezone property or to influence land-use proposals.
  • Judicial corruption typically arises out of the corrupt influencing of state or local judges, juries, or court personnel (clerks, bailiffs, probation officials, and other administrative staff). Common corrupt schemes include: payments to judiciary personnel in exchange for dismissal of charges; reduction of charges, bonds, or sentences; waiver of fines; return of forfeitable property; and favorable probation conditions.
  • Contract corruption usually involves the payment of bribes or kickbacks to local or state officials in exchange for favorable treatment on government contracts. Potential subjects are private contractors, anyone acting on their behalf, and public officials involved in the contracting process (procurement officers, purchasing agents, city councilpersons, and county commissioners). Favorable treatment includes: improper disclosure of bid information; narrow tailoring of contracts to benefit a certain company (sole source contracts); improper disqualification of competitors from the bid process; support or voting for the bribing contractor; and approval of false invoices, improper change orders, or cost overruns on behalf of the bribing contractor.
  • Regulatory corruption involves payment to local, state, or federal officials in exchange for favorable action or inaction pertaining to identification documents, licensing, and inspection and zoning variances. Unlawful payments (bribes and kickbacks) can be paid to: inspectors for non-enforcement of violations or extortion for false violations; planning and zoning officials for improperly reclassifying property; public officials for fraudulent documents, such as driver’s licenses and passports; and licensing officials for fraudulent issuance of licenses to construction contractors, subcontractors, and other regulated industries.
  • Prison corruption involves corrections officers taking unlawful payment for acts directly or indirectly related to their job. Common schemes include: smuggling contraband into the facility, granting unlawful privileges, and prematurely releasing inmates.

5. Protect civil rights

In Birmingham, we conduct investigations of allegations regarding violations of applicable federal laws that protect the civil rights of U.S. citizens and inhabitants. Any attempted or actual curtailment of constitutional or federally-protected rights possessed by citizens and inhabitants of the U.S. falls within the jurisdiction of the FBI. Investigations are conducted under guidelines established in cooperation with the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. For more information, see the Department of Justice Civil Rights website.

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.

The Birmingham Division investigates both domestic and international drug trafficking, including the laundering of illegal proceeds and acts of violence associated with narcotics trafficking.

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.

The FBI Birmingham white-collar crime program is divided into the following investigative areas:

  • Economic crime investigations involve telemarketing fraud, securities and commodities fraud, and investment fraud.
  • Financial institution fraud investigations involve federal crimes against financial institutions and money laundering, including check kiting schemes, bank embezzlement, counterfeit check scams, wire transfer and loan frauds, and the bribery of bank officials.
  • Governmental fraud investigations involve cases of fraud against the government, environmental crime, bankruptcy fraud, and antitrust matters.
  • Healthcare fraud investigations involve fraud perpetrated against Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance companies. These types of fraud include illegal kickbacks, billing for services not rendered, and filing false claims.
  • Public corruption investigations involve the corruption of federal, state, and local public officials, including law enforcement officers, judiciary and executive department employees, administrators, and others in public positions of trust. See Priority #4 above for more information.
  • Mortgage fraud investigations involve making false statements about income, assets, debt, or matters of identification or willfully overvaluing any land or property in a loan and credit application for the purpose of influencing in any way the action of a financial institution. See our Mortgage Fraud Awareness and Prevention Tips webpage for advice on how to avoid getting scammed.

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 Birmingham, we work closely with a host of law enforcement partners to address the full range of violent crimes.

We also aggressively investigate sexual exploitation/crimes against children over the Internet. The following are some helpful links that provide guidance on protecting your children from online harm: