Department of Justice Seal

Prepared Remarks of Attorney General John Ashcroft at the
Announcement of Operation "Roaming Charge"
Washington, D.C.
October 5, 2004 - 12:15 pm

       Good afternoon. Joining me today are:

       I am pleased to announce "Operation Roaming Charge" - an ongoing law enforcement effort to combat telemarketing fraud.

       Operation Roaming Charge began January 1 of this year. It represents the most intensive cooperative international law enforcement effort ever launched to stop telemarketing fraud.

       The operation, which included more than 100 U.S. investigations and more than 20 Canadian investigations, has already resulted in the arrest of more than 100 individuals in the United States and an additional 35 in other countries. Sixty-nine (69) U.S. search warrants and 129 Canadian search warrants were executed as part of the operation, and 70 individuals have been convicted in the United States to date. In addition, state attorneys general have brought 279 criminal, civil, and regulatory actions against illegal telemarketing operations.

       Most often, these criminals target the elderly, the needy, and the vulnerable.

       At a time when telecommunication advances have brought nations and economies closer together, technology has also brought new challenges for law enforcement. Thanks to the growth of computer networks and international telecommunications, criminals now have the ability to deceive and steal from honest citizens-even when they are thousands of miles away.

       Since the 1990s, the face of telemarketing fraud has changed considerably. Criminal telemarketers now routinely operate across international boundaries, running their schemes from North America, Europe, and Asia and targeting residents of the United States and other countries.

       These high-tech criminals think the long arm of the law stops at the border. It does not.

       Many telemarketing schemes take full advantage of modern technology-such as prepaid phone cards and cellular phones-to make their bases of operation harder to trace. In addition, many use sophisticated methods of money laundering to hide their tracks.

       Even moderate-size telemarketing schemes can generate millions of dollars in criminal proceeds. We have seen some well-organized schemes pulling in as much as $50 million.

Operation Roaming Charge reveals that criminals are using increasingly complex networks and schemes to bilk and prey on consumers. For instance, as part of Operation Roaming Charge:

As the wide-ranging cases in Operation Roaming Charge show, telemarketing fraud presents law enforcement with new challenges. Here are just two examples showing the complexity and costs of these scams:

       The impressive results of Operation Roaming Charge show that new technological challenges can spur closer ties and better cooperation within the justice community.

       Simply put, international threats demand international responses from all those who prize liberty and the rule of law. Operation Roaming Charge is an aggressive, well-organized and decisive response from international law enforcement.

       In this unprecedented effort, the United States Justice Department is grateful to law enforcement officials from all over the world and across America.

In Operation Roaming Charge, the law enforcement team has tapped the experience, expertise, and aid of:

I want to thank these agents and officers who have made Operation Roaming Charge such a success. Specifically, I thank those standing with me today:

       In addition, I am deeply grateful to have with us Peter German, the Chief Superintendent and Director General of the Financial Crimes Division of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. He has welcomed American FBI agents who have been deployed to work on the ground with their Canadian colleagues.

       Thanks to his leadership and the assistance of Canadian law enforcement, Operation Roaming Charge has shown the resolve within the international justice community to stop these crimes that know no borders.

       I also want to thank the Fraud Section of the Department's Criminal Division, which provided vital coordination of this operation from start to finish.

       It is now my pleasure to introduce Chris Swecker of the FBI's Criminal Investigative Division, who can provide more details about Operation Roaming Charge.