If the world of federal law enforcement were the National Football League, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Cyber Crime Center Team would be offensive linemen—the people who are down in the trenches and don’t get as much glory as others, but who provide the foundation for success. More specifically, the ICE team is controlling the line of scrimmage, so to speak, in the battle against corrupt federal contracting in Iraq.
Case in point, Philip Bloom was the owner and operator of numerous construction and service companies doing business in Iraq. Bloom seemed to have the magic touch when it came to writing effective bids to earn contracts. As it turns out, Bloom was really good at writing checks to an unethical Coalition Provisional Authority official who took bribes from Bloom in exchange for $13 million in federal contracts. Bloom might have gotten away with this scheme if it were not for the ICE Cyber Crime Center Team. But based on evidence uncovered by the ICE Team, Bloom pled guilty to conspiracy, bribery and money laundering charges, and he faces up to 40 years in prison and nearly $8 million in penalties.
The ICE Cyber Crime Center Team has contributed to the U.S. effort to uncover corruption in Iraq by forensically analyzing a broad range of computers and electronic media storage devices, in addition to recovering and reviewing hundreds of thousands of emails and other computer data files. Working long hours that stretched into the evenings and weekends, team members not only identified new investigative targets, they also produced key forensic evidence proving criminal activity.
The evidence the Team identified has been used to link co-conspirators in a broad range of bribery, kickback and money laundering schemes, to establish criminal intent and then locate the assets stolen through this criminal activity.
The Team has provided support to the prosecutors and investigating agencies in more than 20 cases, each with multiple targets, over a recent six month period. In one case, the forensic evidence the Team collected was so probative and incriminating that it was used as the principle basis for charges against contractors and public officials who conspired to steer contracts illegally in a bribery scheme and to steal currency in Iraq.
In another case, the Team was able to recover deleted files and identify culturally significant property stolen and removed from Iraq in a theft and bribery scheme. In large part because of its efforts, the property was located and recovered and will be returned to Iraq.
Beyond simply bringing criminals to justice, helping to expose this criminal activity helps to make the United States an effective role model for the developing Iraqi justice system, which is dealing with massive corruption.
One of the other noteworthy aspects of the Cyber Crime Team is how effectively they work with representatives of other agencies. Even though ICE is a part of the Department of Homeland Security, the ICE Team works closely with Justice Department lawyers, often providing critical documentary evidence necessary to ensure a conviction.
The four members of the ICE Cyber Security Crime Center Team are Special Agent Gene Driggers, Special Agent John Yera, Analyst Martha Schwing and Analyst Peter Buchan. While they may not be households names like some NFL players, this team is like the league’s great offensive lines in one other important way—they get results.