U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) investigates criminal threats facing the United States with expertise and effectiveness. The threats presented by criminals have far-reaching consequences. In response, HSI uses a versatile approach to conduct its operations so that it can achieve the best results for the nation and its people. In 2018, HSI continued its fight to combat transnational criminal organizations, prevent the sale and use of opioids and fentanyl and prosecute businesses not in compliance with federal employment laws. Below is a breakdown of three of the primary investigation categories HSI focused on the last 12 months.
HSI’s worksite enforcement strategy incorporates a multi-prong approach to utilize enforcement (criminal arrests of employers and employees), compliance (employment verification inspections, civil fines, and referrals for debarment) and outreach (ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers [IMAGE]) to instill a culture of compliance and accountability.
HSI’s strategy is designed to reduce the draw of illegal immigration and instill a culture of compliance among U.S. employers. Employment is a primary driving force behind illegal immigration. On June 19, 2018, HSI special agents executed a criminal search warrant at Fresh Mark in Salem, Ohio, in addition to federal document search warrants at three other Fresh Mark locations in Northern Ohio. During the search warrant execution, authorities identified 146 Fresh Mark employees working at the Salem meat processor who were subject to arrest for immigration violations.
2018 Worksite Enforcement Story Highlights
On Sept. 27, 2018, more than 300 companies convened at the Alexander Hamilton Customs House Thursday for the 2018 IMAGE Training and Forum New York based businesses have participated in this forum, hosted by HSI New York, to learn more about the benefits of joining the IMAGE program.
On June 19, 2018, HSI special agents executed a criminal search warrant at Fresh Mark in Salem, Ohio, in addition to federal document search warrants at three other Fresh Mark locations in Northern Ohio. During the search warrant execution, authorities identified 146 Fresh Mark employees working at the Salem meat processor who were subject to arrest for immigration violations.
Chief among HSI's mission areas is the investigation, disruption and dismantling of transnational criminal organizations that illicitly introduce fentanyl, heroin and other dangerous opioids into the United States, and gravely impact the health and safety of our communities. HSI is at the forefront of combatting the ongoing fentanyl public health epidemic and continues to enhance public safety through investigations of dangerous narcotics by focusing efforts on the individuals and organizations supplying the deadly drugs. In March 2018, President Donald J. Trump recognized ICE agency efforts for its critical role as part of law enforcement efforts in the region along with key local, state and federal law enforcement partners in fighting the ongoing opioid crisis. In fighting the crisis, HSI seized 2,737 pounds of fentanyl, 7,103 pounds of heroin, and 225 pounds of precursor materials in FY 2018. The agency seized a total of $1.2 billion, $20 million of that was virtual currency.
2018 Opioids Story Highlights
The opioid epidemic is not specific to one location, it's everywhere. Nearly every American community has been impacted by the crisis. The primary source of these drugs is China. According to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, mass quantities of fentanyl are being produced in China and brought illegally to the United States, contributing to the growing crisis in the U.S. The rise of fentanyl in the United States can be traced back to China's large chemical and pharmaceutical industries, which manufacture vast quantities of the drug and its analogues to export to the western hemisphere with little regulatory oversight.
In February, HSI Columbus special agents were featured in "The Trade," a five-part documentary series on Showtime about the opioid epidemic in the United States. "The Trade" shared the stories of addicts, interwoven with a law enforcement perspective, highlighting HSI's investigative efforts to combat the surge in heroin and opioid-related trafficking and distribution.
Transnational criminal gangs represent a significant threat to public safety in communities throughout the United States. Their members are involved in a myriad of criminal activity, including murder, extortion, narcotics and weapons trafficking, human smuggling/trafficking and prostitution and other crimes with a nexus to the border. HSI targets transnational criminal gangs engaged in illegal activities that pose a threat to our communities and the security of the homeland. In FY 2018, HSI criminally arrested 3,635 gang members and associates. Leading that effort is the National Gang Unit (NGU) which oversees HSI's expansive transnational gang portfolio and enables special agents to bring the fight to these criminal enterprises through the development of uniform enforcement and intelligence-sharing strategies.
2018 Gangs Story Highlights
In March, 24 criminals were arrested under Operation Matador, the intelligence driven, unified effort to combat the proliferation of MS-13 and other transnational criminal gang activity in Long Island, the New York City metropolitan area and Hudson Valley.
In August, 32 individuals were arrested on narcotics and gambling charges following an investigation by HSI New York, working jointly with The New York City Police Department (NYPD). The investigation, being prosecuted out of New York City's Special Narcotics Prosecutor's Office, uncovered a large-scale alleged cocaine and heroin distribution network centered in the East Village and a related gambling operation located in a busy commercial district near West 11th Street and Avenue of the Americas in the West Village.