The FBI's sting operations in Utah have been so successful they are becoming the blueprints for similar undercover investigations in other states, an agent says.
One recent success is Operation Punchout, which targeted theft of military property and has resulted in 67 convictions or guilty pleas so far, said Eugene Glenn, special agent in charge of the FBI's Salt Lake City District Office.He also pointed to the investigation into the Protecto Industries securities case, with a dozen convictions or guilty pleas for insider-trading allegations.
"We have opened up three new undercover operations with such success that they are being franchised nationwide," Glenn told the monthly meeting of the Society of Logistics Engineers Ogden chapter Tuesday.
He declined to discuss those cases, saying federal grand jury indictments still are up to 18 months away. But he said they involve white-collar or securities crimes instead of drugs, espionage or terrorism.
Once field agents can demonstrate that an undercover sting works, he said, there are no problems with FBI administrators in Washington.
"If you need more money, you've got more money. And, if you need more guys, they say, "Go ahead,' " he said.
Operation Punchout featured agents posing as buyers of stolen military gear, and Glenn said it worked "because criminals are no different than any of the rest of us; they need goods and services."
In that case, the FBI provided the money to purchase goods through a phony military surplus store in Roy.
Operation Punchout ultimately "just got too big" and was dismantled after three years. In addition to the convictions, Glenn said, another 31 cases are ready for prosecution.
When the FBI's Salt Lake office operated only in Utah, it was the agency's second smallest district office, with 50 agents and 35 support employees.
Now that the Boise and Billings, Mont., offices have merged with Salt Lake, the office has a total of 225 employees, including 125 agents, and ranks 16th among 56 district offices.
Glenn said one reason for the increase is the number of agents needed to watch the team of Soviet inspectors based at the Hercules' Bacchus Works in Salt Lake County.
The Soviets are monitoring U.S. compliance with the 3-year-old Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty. Hercules once made rocket motors for intermediate-range nuclear missiles, and the Soviets are confirming the engines are no longer being produced.
The FBI will add about 100 jobs to the Utah office if the Soviet Union and United States agree to destroy their chemical weapons stockpiles, Glenn said.