2 min read

IRS: CI – The Value of Effective Federal Law Enforcement

Fighting financial crime is a multifaceted endeavor. It takes a combination of resources in the private sector and the law enforcement community. When these groups work in public-private partnerships, they are more effective and successful.

John Byrne, AML RightSource Advisory Board Chairman, spoke with Guy Ficco, current Chief of IRS Criminal Investigations, and Don Fort, director of investigations at Kostelanetz and former Chief of IRS: CI.

Their conversation covered the IRS: CI division’s international dimension, its efforts to increase collaboration with other federal law enforcement agencies, and the importance of public-private partnerships. The discussion also looked at IRS: CI’s priorities for this year and the importance of supporting good mental health in its workforce.

International Focus

IRS: CI is a founding member of the Joint Chiefs of Global Tax Enforcement - J5. Other members include the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), the Fiscale Inlichtingen- en Opsporingsdienst (FIOD) [Netherlands], and HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) [United Kingdom].

Since its launch in 2018, the J5 has worked to increase international cooperation in tax enforcement and financial crime -expanding capabilities, information sharing, and joint case work in the critical joint action of stemming tax and cybercrime in the future.

Domestic Collaboration

Collaboration with other domestic agencies is also critical. One example is the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force – OCDETF. Focused on narcotics and other drug trafficking, it includes the DEA, FBI, HIS, and IRS: CI. The sale of illegal drugs many times necessitates the need to launder the proceeds. While the OCDETF collectively works to disable, disband, and destroy these key illicit organizations, the key role of IRS: CI is the financial investigations component. This includes uncovering transitional funds transfer mechanisms and emerging techniques using virtual currencies.

Another area of collaboration is the ongoing investigations into COVID-19 fraud. These activities have included agents from several agencies working together. While new investigations are beginning to taper off – almost four years later – COVID-19 fraud still represents nearly 10% of the division’s investigations. These investigations have led to case conviction rates of over 90%.

Public-Private Partnerships

Federal law enforcement continues to establish effective public-private partnerships. IRS: CI has staff responsible for expanding partnerships with financial service providers and other government agencies.

2024 Priorities

For 2024, the IRS is continuing its efforts to improve service and enforcement. These include:

  • Hiring new staff and agents to bring staffing closer to prior levels
  • Bringing new skills into the agency
  • Improving hiring processes to shorten the time from application to onboarding
  • Improving collaboration among the divisions in the agency to share information and expertise
  • Improving investigative technology
  • Improving outreach through social media and other channels
Mental Health Awareness

In the past, the mental health burden associated with working criminal investigations has not received much attention. While not unique to just IRS: CI, the stigma associated with mental health is something the organization continues to battle against with a range of resources and approaches. And while the work can take an agent deep into the underbelly of society, it’s no longer an acceptable expectation that agents carry those mental burdens with them throughout their careers. The starting point is publicizing the availability of resources to support staff members and the role of good mental health in life and making it clear that mental health challenges are treatable illnesses. The resources include the general employee assistance program, group sessions to discuss issues, access to mindfulness apps, and access to counselors with law enforcement backgrounds and experience.

Want to hear directly from our expert panel? Access the webinar here

Or, if you want to learn more about how our advisory and managed services solutions can help you with your financial crime compliance program, fill out our contact form, and let's start the conversation. 

Connect with our Speakers


John Byrne

Chairman AML RightSource Advisory Board 


Guy Ficco

Guy Ficco

Chief, Internal Revenue Service Criminal investigation


Don Fort

Don Fort

Director Of Investigations, Kostelanetz LLP