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An action career with the IRS?
Posted By Sarah Foster On 12/21/1998 @ 1:00 am In Front Page | Comments Disabled
| IRS marksmen
perfect their skills
In the photo the two shooters stand in position, aiming their rifles
carefully for the next shot. This is serious work, requiring undivided
attention. Steady now. One can almost hear the instructor’s “ready, aim
Are they members of the National Rifle Association? Gun Owners of
America? A “militia” group? No, not at all. They are IRS special agents
perfecting their job skills at the target range at the Federal Law
Enforcement Training Center at Glynco, Georgia.
The photo is found on the recruitment pages of the website of the
Criminal Investigation Division of the Internal Revenue Service,
intended to inspire sign-ups by promising an exciting “Career In
Action!” and a chance to use “accounting skills in non-traditional
This flaunting of the brutal side of special agents’ work in promotional
material would appear to run counter to assurances by IRS officials last
spring that there would be some much needed changes in IRS-CI
procedures. The division had come under congressional scrutiny, spurred
by public outrage over increasing abuse of power.
For instance, there were the raids on the Jewish Mother restaurants,
owned by John Colaprete, in Virginia Beach and Norfolk, VA.
As Colaprete explained to the Senate Finance Committee — which
sponsored hearings in April — the IRS-CI decided to act on a tip from a
disgruntled employee, who had claimed the restaurants were being used as
a front for drug dealing, money laundering, and tax evasion. On the day
before Easter, 1994, rifle-toting IRS-CI agents in flak jackets,
accompanied by an entourage of law enforcement officials from other
agencies and drug-sniffing dogs, stormed into the restaurants and homes
of the managers and owners — seizing cash registers, computers,
Rolodexes, and all financial records. No drugs were found, nor money
laundering, or tax evasion. Eventually the IRS dropped the case.
The agents were not reprimanded. Having been drawn to a colorful “career
in action,” they carried out their job orders as they had been trained
The IRS-CI is a federal law enforcement agency, part of the “enormous
network” of local, state, and federal enforcement agencies. Its agents
are authorized to conduct investigations, execute warrants, make
arrests, and carry firearms.
Dubbed “accountants with a badge,” they can and do stage “dynamic
entries” — with guns drawn — on homes and businesses of persons
alleged to be engaged in money laundering, tax fraud, “illegal tax
protesting,” or other illicit financial activity.
Lodged within the gargantuan IRS — which has 102,000 employees — the
IRS-CI is a relatively miniscule unit. IRS-CI spokesperson Patty Reid
told WorldNetDaily it has just over 2,900 agents, a drop from from 3,744
in 1996. The fallout is due, in part, to “attrition” — a number of
agents having reached retirement age in the last two years.
“The drop is also due to IRS budgeting across the board,” she said. “The
entire IRS has been in a hiring freeze for the past couple of years.”
Nonetheless, despite its reduced size the CI continues to wield its
power unabated, and is considered one of the more formidable federal law
enforcement agencies. Its promotional literature boasts a close working
relationship with the Department of Justice, U.S. Attorneys, the FBI,
U.S. Customs, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Postal
Inspection Service, inspectors general of all federal agencies, the U.S.
Marshals Service — “the list goes on and on.”
IRS-CI recruits attend a “demanding” eight-week course at Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, the state-of-the-art facility run by the Treasury Department at Glynco, Georgia, where all federal law enforcement officers (except FBI agents), and many state and local police, are trained. The FBI has its own training facilities at Quantico, VA.
The course covers the basics of criminal investigation — everything
from federal criminal law to firearms training.
This eight-week session is followed by an additional 12 weeks of
specialized training in tax law, criminal tax fraud, computer fraud,
money laundering and financial fraud schemes — plus instruction in
undercover operations, electronic surveillance techniques, forensic
sciences, court procedures, and trial witness training.
Recruits at these training sessions engage in role-playing exercises –
“simulated real-life situations” — like those played for real at the
Jewish Mother restaurants.
Because of the automation of financial records, special agents are
expected to know the intricacies of “recovering computer evidence.”
Besides the eight-week and 12-week sessions, agents spend an additional
three weeks at FLETC learning how to break encryption codes on seized
computers and retrieve hidden passwords in order to recover the data
used for convicting individuals on tax law or money laundering
This course in hacking into peoples personal computers and snooping
their records is reinforced by two or three weeks a year of continuing
At the end of training, each IRS-CI special agent receives a notebook
personal computer “and other law enforcement equipment (a 9-mm Glock
sidearm?) to assist in his or her investigative duties.”
It wasn’t always like this. Although the IRS-CI has been in existence for
decades, only relatively recently has it become notorious for
storm-trooper tactics, according to George Guttman, special
correspondent for Tax Analysts, a Washington-based organization.
Indeed, says Guttman, IRS-CI agents have been carrying weapons only for
the past 30 some years.
“At one time, CI was essentially a group of financial experts whose main
job was to analyze financial documents and ‘follow the money’ to
discover tax crimes and put together cases,” Guttman notes in a recent
article for Tax Analysts News. “Until the 1960s, the investigators were
really skilled accountants. … In the 1960s, the accountants started
Over the next three decades a shift occurred in the role played by CI.
Rather than being concentrated on “pure tax crimes”, CI resources were
shifted to other areas: investigating organized crime, chasing drug
dealers, investigating money laundering.
By 1993 the majority of CI resources were directed towards crimes that
were not strictly tax-related, and there had been a “subtle change” in
the way CI does business. Its agents were looking at everyone under
investigation as though they were organized crime figures, who are more
prone to violence than ordinary “white collar tax cheats.” Instead
of sticking to administrative-type investigative work and referring
cases on to the Justice Department — as was the policy for decades –
the CI had become gradually involved in “street law enforcement action”
– making arrests, executing search warrants, and participating in
This new role was quite profitable. Money was available for anti-drug
and anti-crime programs, and the IRS could be reimbursed for working
with other agencies and receive extra funding and equipment. Guttman
reports that between 1990 and 1996, the IRS received over $335 millon in
funding from the Justice Department and the Organized Crime Drug
Enforcement Task Force.
“In addition to being ‘more fun,’ according to a CI source, these
programs provided better benefits — better equipment, such as better
cars, and better financial compensation, such as virtually unlimited
overtime,” he says.
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