Click here for Anonymous’ previous reflections about ICE.
So, unfortunately, I’m not able to tell you much about the work I’ve actually been doing with HSI since most of it involves ongoing investigations. But I’d still like to give you a sense of the type of cases the agency deals with, so what I’m going to do is tell you about the ones that are…wait for it…
Which, admittedly, isn’t as fun, but it’s still pretty interesting!
Since I’m interning at the New York office, the majority of cases are prosecuted in either the Southern District of New York or the Eastern District of New York. Press releases are frequently released from both of these courthouses and the HSI website. All of the cases discussed come from one of these three sources; links will be provided below if you want more information!
The first case I want to talk about is rather high profile – the conviction of El Chapo. HSI did the investigation in conjunction with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the U.S. Marshal Service (USMS), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the New York Police Department (NYPD). Due to the transnational component of El Chapo’s crimes, HSI’s involvement in the investigation was critical. HSI’s New York Division tasked the case to its El Dorado Task Force, a group that primarily deals with financial crimes and is made up of individuals from multiple different law enforcement agencies. Due to the work of the Task Force and the other investigators, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera was extradited to the United States and was prosecuted by multiple courts for his crimes, one of which was the Eastern District of New York. His charges, according to the HSI website, included drug violations, a murder conspiracy, firearm violations, and a money laundering conspiracy. It was determined that Guzman Loera was the head of the Sinaloa Cartel, an organization based in Mexico. The cartel trafficked cocaine, heroin, and marijuana from Central and South America to the United States using submarines, carbon fiber airplanes, trains, and tunnels while also laundering money and peddling weapons between Mexico and the United States. Additionally, Guzman Loera utilized hitmen and committed his own brutal attacks in order to ensure that the Sinaloa Cartel continued to prosper. Guzman Loera was convicted of his crimes after a 12-week trial in 2019.
(Links: https://www.ice.gov/news/releases/joaquin-el-chapo-guzman-found-guilty-all-charges-us-court; https://www.ice.gov/cornerstone#tab4)
A more recent case prosecuted by HSI, and one radically different from the El Chapo investigation, was the charging of Ruless Pierre on November 6, 2019. According to the Southern District of New York, Pierre is accused of securities fraud, wire fraud, and structuring charges. Pierre is alleged to have acquired over $2 million through his consulting firm by lying to people about how much money their investments were expected to return. Under this pretense, he also falsified records showing that these investors’ funds were growing, the reality being that he lost almost $1.4 million after engaging in day trading. Pierre is also alleged to have spent the investment money he didn’t lose on personal expenses. Additionally, he is accused of embezzling over $400,00 from hotels by which he was formerly employed. Pierre could face a sizeable chunk of time in prison if convicted of these charges: while he would only face a maximum sentence of five years for the structuring charges, the securities fraud and wire fraud could land him in prison for 20 years.
On a different note, David Jones was convicted in October by the Southern District of New York to 30 months in prison for defrauding people on a dating website. The HSI investigation showed that Jones would engage users on a dating website posing as an adult, have them share explicit photos with him, and then claim that the account belonged to a minor. In order to avoid the family from filing charges, Jones would claim that the user needed to pay the minor’s family a substantial amount of money. At the end of the day, Jones and his associates made off with over $40,000. Following his prison release, Jones will be required to forfeit $27,066 and pay $41,459.51 in restitution.
Homeland Security Investigations, beyond having its own cases, also aids in many other investigations. For example, HSI aided the FBI and U.S. Secret Service with their prosecution of Andrei Tyurin, a Russian Hacker who, according to the Southern District of New York, engaged in computer intrusion, wire fraud, bank fraud, illegal gambling offenses, and hacking offenses that affected a number of American companies between 2012 and 2015. Tyurin pled guilty to these crimes on September 23, 2019 and will be sentenced in 2020. The maximum prison sentence he could face is 30 years.
As you can see, the cases HSI deals with are extremely varied. This is hardly surprising, though, since HSI’s prosecution capabilities are one of the most diverse in law enforcement. The types of cases that HSI handles are incredibly broad, meaning that there’s hardly ever a dull day!