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April 8, 2013

Former FBI Agent Gives Insight Into Working White-Collar Crime Investigations

Last year, FBI agents arrested Russell Wasendorf Sr., former chief executive officer of Peregrine Financial Group, after they discovered he embezzled more than $100 million from thousands of clients over the past two decades. In 2008, agents similarly arrested and prosecuted Bernard Madoff for his involvement in a fraudulent investment scheme. These are just a few national examples of white-collar crime cases — where the crimes are nonviolent and committed for financial gain — that agents work daily to solve.

John Hanson, a former FBI agent who specialized in fraud and white-collar crime, provided insight into tactics used to discover these crimes to lawyers and law students  during a brown bag luncheon, “Inside the Mind of an FBI Agent,” hosted by the _ Criminal Justice Section.

“Probably 80 percent of what I did as an FBI agent was interview people,” Hanson said.

As an FBI agent, Hanson said he managed up to 30 cases at any given time.

“Not all agents are created equal. We come from a variety of backgrounds and life experiences,” Hanson said. “They look for these things in the recruiting and hiring process — well-rounded people with lots of life and business experience.”

Agents discover fraud and other white-collar offenses through a variety of methods, including news articles, agency referrals and victims who report wrongdoings.

In some instances, companies will come to the FBI and report themselves, and then the agent will investigate the case, Hanson said.

Sometimes, an agent works on one white-collar crime case and unearths others. Hanson once encountered a potential health care fraud case while digging in the trash of another company he investigated.

“I discovered there was a medical facility nearby because I almost got poked by many needles,” Hanson said. “I was rather angry about that, so the next day the health care squad got a referral regarding a health care matter involving them.”

Agents often work with other agencies on cases, Hanson added.

“I would often reach out to postal inspectors and others because they may have some specialized experience in an area that I lack,” Hanson said.

Investigation tactics often include basic Internet searches, internal databases, informants and financial document review.

Once agents have built up sufficient evidence of a crime, they work closely with prosecutors to bring criminals to justice.

“The dynamic duo, the agent facilitates the investigation and the prosecutor facilitates the legal process,” Hanson said.

Learn More About:  Criminal Justice