White-collar crime investigations remain a top priority for the FBI in Utah - but so does foreign counterintelligence, according to Eugene F. Glenn, FBI special agent in charge for Utah.
No local terrorist activities were discovered during Operation Desert Storm, Glenn told the Salt Lake Rotary Club Tuesday, but the foreign intelligence community is active in the Salt Lake area.Twenty-eight Soviet missile inspectors are in Salt Lake County because of the terms of the intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty. At least one-third of them are believed to be intelligence officers with the Soviet KGB or GRU, Glenn said.
The Soviet military intelligence agency GRU draws less public notoriety than the KGB, the Soviet Committee for State Security, but U.S. agents expel more GRU agents than KGB agents each year, he said.
FBI agents use counterespionage to "weave a barrier" between foreign agents and U.S. citizens, neutralizing the national security risks foreign agents cause, Glenn said. Foreign agents use the "typical American attitude toward money" to bribe Americans to sell secrets to the Soviets, which has caused considerable damage to national security and has cost American soldiers their lives in recent years.
White-collar crime, another of the FBI's top investigative priorities, was given a low priority by federal prosecutors and was considered a "victimless crime" until the late 1980s.
Fraud crimes now take a high investigative priority, thanks in part to major economic problems aggravated by fraud crimes - the $530 billion savings-and-loan crisis, fraud among defense contractors and the questionable solvency of some insurance and pension funds.
Nationally, the FBI is investigating 8,000 embezzlement cases at 670 failed financial institutions where individual losses were more than $100,000. Current estimates indicate half of the failures can be blamed on fraud and insider abuse, while the other half can be blamed on bad management and souring economic conditions, Glenn said.
Telemarketing frauds cost Americans $10 billion a year and more than 100 boiler-room telemarketing operations are thriving in Salt Lake and Utah counties. The operations typically separate a person from his money by promising a free gift when the person gives a credit card number to purchase a product that is usually overpriced.
Utah has both an ample work force to staff the operations and a trusting population that keeps the fraud practice thriving, Glenn said.