The director of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation says a recent upsurge of financial crimes is putting a strain on the agency, which also remains focused on fighting terrorism.
FBI Director Robert Mueller says over the last three years, as the U.S. housing market declined, the number of mortgage fraud cases investigated by his agency has more than doubled, from 700 to more than 2,000.
Mueller says there are also more than 560 cases of corporate fraud pending, some directly relating to the current financial crisis, and he only expects it to get worse.
"Our expectation is that economic crimes will continue to skyrocket. The unprecedented level of financial resources committed by the federal government to combat the economic downturn will lead to an inevitable increase in economic crime and public corruption cases," he said.
Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday, Mueller told senators that after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, the FBI permanently moved approximately 2,000 agents from its criminal unit to its national security branch. As a result, Mueller said the bureau does not have the flexibility it once did to shift personnel around within the criminal unit.
"As always, the FBI will set priorities to attack the most severe threats, but a note of realism is in order in light of the scale of the FBI's existing mission after September 11th and the degree of strain on our current resources," he said.
Mueller says the FBI has more than doubled the number of agents investigating mortgage fraud since 2007, but it does not expect its caseload to decrease in the near future.
In addition to fighting cyber crime, gang and drug-cartel related violence, public corruption remains one of the bureau's top priorities. The director said the number of FBI corruption investigations has increased almost 60% since 2003. He said in the last two years alone, more than 1,600 federal, state and local officials have been convicted.