After serving for more than five years, the head of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CI), Chief Richard Weber, is stepping down. Weber announced his departure this month, saying, “It’s time.” He continued, “It’s time to start a new challenge.”
Weber knows a little something about challenges. Weber signed on as Chief of IRS-CI in April of 2012. At the time, the agency was trying to balance an increasingly sophisticated workload focusing on cybercrime, terrorism, and identity theft against a lack of resources and the threat of more cuts. As IRS became a political target, budget cuts affected not only customer service to taxpayers but the ability of IRS-CI to protect taxpayers against criminals. Weber says that the lack of resources created “more challenges in five years than in the history of the organization.” His staff, which is now at approximately the same staffing level as it was more than 60 years ago, has risen above those challenges, he said and “never let outside noise impact their day to day work.”
That work included a lot of special moments for the Chief. When asked about his most memorable moment, he doesn’t hesitate. “The FIFA press conference in New York,” he says. It was one of the most significant cases he worked on during his tenure as Chief – that he knew. However, he said, when he came out and saw the “hundreds of press people and cameras in the US Attorney library,” he knew that it was a defining moment. He had, he admits, never anticipated so much interest in the case.
Weber is, of course, referring to the May 2015 announcement that 14 defendants had been charged with racketeering, wire fraud, money laundering conspiracies, and other offenses, in a wide-ranging corruption scheme. The defendants included two then serving FIFA Vice Presidents as well as the then serving current and former Presidents of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF). The conspiracy allegedly involved hundreds of millions of dollars.
That moment isn’t, however, Weber’s proudest achievement. He is, he says, most proud of raising awareness of the department by placing an emphasis on communication. He says that getting out the message about the mission of the IRS-CI and its continued relevance to the public was an important goal.
The IRS-CI department is comprised of nearly 3,500 employees worldwide, approximately 2,500 of whom are special agents. IRS-CI special agents tackle crimes focusing on tax, money laundering, and Bank Secrecy Act laws. Special agents are known for “following the money” – from nabbing Capone to solving the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, they have played a role in a number of high profile crimes. However, while other federal agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) may also chase financial criminals, the IRS is the only federal agency that can investigate potential criminal violations of the Internal Revenue Code.
The men and women who are committed to that mission, says Weber, are “something special.” When asked what he’ll miss most, he’s clear that it’s the people he’s had the opportunity to work with during his tenure. “I’ve worked with a lot of law enforcement agencies,” he says, “but when it comes to investigating financial crimes and building a case, there is nothing like a CI special agent.” That spirit isn’t relegated to special agents, he adds, noting that he will miss the dedication of the entire team saying he has “never seen anything like it.”
What advice would he offer the next Chief? Stay focused on the mission, he says. That means being mindful about how to use limited resources and being “incredibly selective about our priorities.”
When pressed about what he would characterize as priorities for the next Chief, Weber offered three areas:
- Cybersecurity, specifically attempts by criminals to obtain personally identifiable information that can be used to file fraudulent tax returns;
- Terrorist financing; and
- Offshore areas, following the money outside of Switzerland (spoiler alert: watch for significant cases coming up that involve offshore tax in other jurisdictions)
Weber can speak with a wealth of experience that’s fairly uncommon at IRS-CI. Typically, a Chief will stick around for an average of 2-1/2 years. Weber’s tenure makes him the fifth-longest serving Chief in the IRS-CI’s nearly 100-year history: Weber hopes to be at the Centennial celebration in 2019.
Weber’s commitment to public service, however, is more extensive than his term at IRS-CI. He has served in government for more than two decades. Before IRS-CI, he was a prosecutor in the Eastern District of New York and served as the Chief of Major Economic Crimes Bureau with the Manhattan District Attorney’s office. He also worked with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) where he served in the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section (AFMLS). That path eventually brought him to IRS-CI.
Weber’s next challenge? The private sector. He’s joining Deutsche Bank where he says he’s excited to focus his efforts on financial crime compliance. “Fighting financial crime has been my passion for two decades,” he notes, saying, “I hope to use my experience to help the bank become a leader in financial crime compliance and strengthen critical partnerships with the regulators and law enforcement.” In other words, he’ll still be fighting the bad guys. “The role of anti-financial crime (AFC) is of critical importance in the financial industry,” he continues, “and I look forward to working closely with the AFC team and bank’s leadership to help keep the bank safe from criminals.”