FBI staffing shortage hampers financial crime investigations

U.S. agency reallocated agents from criminal cases to national security after Sept. 11

The Federal Bureau of Investigation doesn't have enough agents to investigate financial crimes related to the current financial crisis in the United States.

The bureau shifted almost one-third of all agents in criminal programs, more than 1,800 agents, to terrorism and intelligence duties after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

These cutbacks in the criminal investigation division have left the bureau seriously short-handed in areas such as white-collar crime. From 2000 to 2007, fraud prosecutions against financial institutions fell 48 per cent, insurance fraud prosecutions tumbled 75 per cent and security fraud cases fell 17 per cent.

With the financial melt-down in the U.S., the FBI has been under pressure to do more financial crime investigations, with criminal investigations launched against Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, American International Group (AIG), Lehman Brothers and 1,500 other mortgage-related investigations.

The bureau said it will reassign hundreds of agents to work financial crimes, but didn't say where they will come from. The FBI currently has 177 agents working 1,552 cases of mortgage fraud, hundreds of agents short of the staffing levels during the savings and loan scandals of the 1980s.

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