Caldwell Says U.S. Isn’t Global Corruption Police; Has to Cooperate with International Agencies

“We don’t want to be the world’s global corruption police,” said Leslie R. Caldwell, assistant attorney general for the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice during the Monday opening General Session. “We can’t and we don’t want to be. … We are vigorously investigating international corruption, vigorously prosecuting organized crime … and we’re increasing our commitment everyday to international cooperation in our struggle to safeguard markets, our networks, our privacy and our citizens.”

Caldwell, who earlier received the Donald R. Cressey Award — the ACFE’s annual highest honor for a lifetime of achievement in the detection and deterrence of fraud — said she was impressed with the global scope of the ACFE. “You’re covering topics in the conference that we [in the Criminal Division] are talking about all the time such as anti-money laundering, forfeiture — and the scariest thing that keeps me up at night — cybercrime and cybersecurity. …

“The Internet has enabled traditional local groups — people sitting in a small city in the former Soviet republic — to convert themselves into global international enterprises,” she said. “It has enabled criminals all over the globe to access us in the United States to steal our data, to invade our privacy and to victimize us.”

She says cybercriminals have taken advantage of increased Internet speeds, virtual currencies and “anonymizing” software.  “Rather than robbing a single bank at gunpoint … people can sit in their basements and rob thousands of banks in a matter of minutes. … Hackers steal information at banks in one country … and count their money in a third country.”

Caldwell says that in virtually every case the Criminal Division has, there’s an international component — the “new normal” — its investigators have to work closely with other global agencies.

Case in point: was an Internet-based, international criminal enterprise whose members trafficked in compromised credit card account information and counterfeit identifications. They committed money laundering, narcotics trafficking and all sorts of different computer crimes. “Most of the Web forums were hosted in former Soviet republics, which is where we’ve seen a lot of cybercriminal activity — although we’ve seen it all over the world,” she says.

Many of the 5,500 members were in the U.S., western and eastern Europe and Africa. “Like the Costra Nostra you had to have an introduction to get in. And just like the Mafia, if you were disloyal you were stripped of your membership and kicked out. … The difference is you didn’t see as many dead bodies!” Caldwell says. Like, the group’s website contained photos of illegal items and reviewers’ reports.

The Criminal Division used the old-school technique of an infiltrating undercover agent to crack the case. To date, 26 individuals from around the world have been convicted, and the rest are either fugitives or are pending trial. Cooperation with law enforcement agencies in other countries greatly helped prosecute the case.

“Cybercrime, organized crime, corruption are really now international problems that can only be effectively addressed by international law enforcement partnerships,” Caldwell says.