“As a division,” Lee said, “we are nimble and able to shift quickly.”
The division has come under increased scrutiny in recent months, particularly when Congress was debating the Inflation Reduction Act, which gives the IRS $80 billion in additional funding. Republicans have conflated the criminal investigation division's armed agents with the unarmed IRS auditors who go over financial filings for the federal tax collector.
Those comparisons are misleading and false. "Not only is it wildly inappropriate but it's dangerous," Lee said.
“Much of the international success of CI special agents stems from a robust and aggressive international program that includes 11 foreign posts and memberships in multiple international taskforces,” the annual report states. Agents work alongside the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Joint Criminal Opioid Darknet Enforcement taskforce and other entities.
Among seizures this past year, the agency assisted in the investigation that led to the February arrest of Ilya Lichtenstein and Heather Morgan for an alleged conspiracy to launder cryptocurrency that was stolen during the 2016 hack of virtual currency exchange Bitfinex, valued at approximately $4.5 billion, the largest single financial seizure in government history.
And in August, Alexander Vinnik, a Russian citizen and an alleged operator of the illicit cryptocurrency exchange BTC-e, was charged in California with operating a cybercrime and online money laundering firm, alleged to have laundered more than $4 billion.
“If you get in the crosshairs of an IRS CI special agent," Lee said, “it's highly likely you’re going to jail.”