During fiscal year 2019 (FY19), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) effectively combated transnational criminal threats against the United States resulting in a record-breaking number of criminal arrests. HSI is the principal investigative component of the Department of Homeland Security with more than 9,800 employees, including over 6,700 special agents and 700 intelligence analysts, assigned to more than 210 cities throughout the U.S. as well as 78 offices in 52 countries. HSI investigates a multitude of crimes including: financial crimes, bulk cash smuggling, cybercrimes, exploitation of children and child sex tourism, weapons smuggling and export enforcement, trade crimes such as commercial fraud and intellectual property theft, human smuggling and trafficking, narcotics smuggling and trafficking, identity and benefit fraud, human rights violations, transnational gang activity, counterterrorism and visa security.
HSI’s investigative strategies resulted in a record-high 37,547 criminal arrests, almost a 10 percent increase from FY18, as well as the seizure of more than $775 million in currency and assets from criminal proceeds.
HSI arrested 5,750 criminals associated with human smuggling investigations in FY19, a 41 percent increase from FY18, due in part to the use of Rapid DNA testing technology to detect fraudulent families at the Southwest border. During FY19, over 400 HSI personnel deployed to the southern border to protect children from being smuggled into the United States through fraudulent family units, often tied to larger transnational criminal syndicates.
In FY19, HSI arrested 2,197 criminals associated with human trafficking, a 38 percent increase from FY18, as well as identified and/or assisted 428 victims of human trafficking in FY19, a 39 percent increase from the previous year. HSI uses a victim-centered approach in its trafficking investigations, where equal value is placed on both the identification and stabilization of victims and prosecution of the traffickers. HSI also developed the Strategic Trafficking Outreach Program (S.T.O.P.) to educate and raise awareness as well as how to report instances of suspected trafficking.
HSI saw a record-breaking year in narcotics enforcement by leveraging partnerships and using a variety of task forces, including its Border Enforcement Security Taskforce (BEST). HSI seized more than 12,450 lbs. of opioids in FY19 – a record-breaking amount – exceeding FY18 seizures by more than 2,500 lbs. HSI also seized more than 3,600 lbs. of fentanyl and made more than 1,900 fentanyl-related arrests in FY19, which are both substantially higher than FY18 figures. HSI also seized more than 145,000 lbs. of methamphetamine in FY19.
Identity and benefit fraud pose a severe threat to national security. HSI leads 36 Document and Benefit Fraud Task Forces (DBFTF) across the country to combat this fraudulent activity. HSI made 2,198 arrests tied to identity and benefit fraud in FY19, a nearly 75 percent increase from FY18.
HSI also continued its fight against child predators and transnational gangs in FY19. In FY19, HSI arrested 3,957 child predators as well as rescued or identified 1,069 victims. HSI also made 3,886 criminal gang arrests, including 337 criminal arrests of MS-13 gang members during the same timeframe.
HSI Noteworthy Cases
- On July 17, 2019, Joaquin Archivaldo Guzman Loera, known by various aliases, including “El Chapo” and “El Rapido,” was sentenced by United States District Judge Brian M. Cogan to life imprisonment plus 30 years to run consecutive to the life sentence for being a principal leader of a continuing criminal enterprise – the Mexican organized crime syndicate known as the Sinaloa Cartel – a charge that included 26 drug-related violations and one murder conspiracy. The Court also ordered Guzman Loera to pay $12.6 billion in forfeiture.
- In June 2019, HSI Philadelphia and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) hosted a joint press conference at the U.S. Custom House in Philadelphia to announce the multi-agency seizure of over 17 tons of cocaine with an estimated street value of about $1.1 billion.
- In August 2019, HSI Norfolk and law enforcement partners announced indictments against 39 individuals in a heroin and fentanyl trafficking conspiracy as part of Operation Cookout. This HSI-led operation resulted in 35 arrests, as well as the seizure of 24 firearms, 30 kilograms of fentanyl, 30 kilograms of heroin, 5 kilograms of cocaine and more than $700,000 in cash during a three-day takedown.
- On June 28, 2019, ICE and HSI leadership announced the results of an international weapons trafficking operation that resulted in a total of 25 arrests and 53 search warrants executive in three countries.
- On October 10, 2019, HSI announced the conviction of a Texas businessman who was convicted in federal court of sex trafficking of a minor female and other related changes.