Many of the Western District's major cases are the result of a collaborative effort between federal, state and local law enforcement. These group initiatives, called task forces, are designed to target a particular criminal activity, and often in a particular geographical area. We have found that combining the resources, the intelligence and the manpower of multiple law enforcement agencies to focus on a particular problem is an effective way to combat crime.
- Anti-Terrorism Advisory Council (ATAC)
- Crimes Against Children Task Force
- Financial Crimes Task Force of Southwestern Pennsylvania
- Pittsburgh High Tech Crimes Task Force
- Violent Crime Impact Team (VCIT)
- Western Pennsylvania Fugitive Task Force
- Western Pennsylvania Mortgage Fraud Task Force
The world changed on September 11, 2001. America was attacked on its own soil, taking the lives of more than 3,000 innocent people civilians, citizens of other countries, firefighters, police officers, and military personnel. The role of virtually every federal, state and local law enforcement agency also changed that day.
The fight against terrorism became law enforcement's first and overriding priority. Each United States Attorney's Office established an Anti-Terrorism Advisory Council (ATAC) to serve as a conduit for information sharing about suspected terrorists between federal, state, and local law enforcement entities.
The second purpose of the ATAC is to implement the national anti-terrorist operational plan in the Western District of Pennsylvania. The national operational plan has been defined in part as "preventing terrorism by arresting and detaining violators who have been identified as persons who participate in, or lend support to, terrorist activities." The national operational plan requires an assessment of terrorist threat within the District to define the direction and scope of its mission. The assessment includes identifying individuals and groups who 1) have ever been arrested and/or charged with a crime amounting to terrorism or the support of terrorism; 2) are known to raise funds for, or otherwise provide support to, terrorist elements; 3) have ever advocated the use of terrorism; or 4) whose conduct otherwise reasonably indicates that they are engaged in, or contemplating the use of, terrorism.
Thirdly, the ATAC leads a coordinated response to a terrorist incident occurring within the District. The Western Pennsylvania ATAC meets regularly to share intelligence and information, and to discuss relevant projects.
Western Pennsylvania's ATAC includes representatives from the United States Attorney's Office, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, United States Coast Guard, U.S. Secret Service, Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development/Office of Inspector General, Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation, United States Marshals Service, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, United States Postal Service, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Social Security Administration, United States Transportation Security Administration, Federal Air Marshal Service, Department of Veterans Affairs, Pennsylvania State Attorney General's Office, Pennsylvania State Police, Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, Pennsylvania Homeland Security Department, Port Authority of Allegheny County, Allegheny County Emergency Management Agency, Allegheny County Police Department, Allegheny County Sheriff's Office, and the District Attorney's Offices from Allegheny, Butler, and Lawrence counties, and numerous local police departments.
United States Attorney's Office
U.S. Post Office & Courthouse
700 Grant Street, Suite 4000
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
On September 23, 1999, federal, state, and local law enforcement, along with the Center for Victims of Violent Crime, and "a Child's Place at Mercy" came together to form the Western Pennsylvania Crimes Against Children Task Force. This task force was one of the first of its type in the country to combine the resources of law enforcement, victim's services, and medical professionals to more effectively prosecute crimes involving the sexual exploitation of children, and to ensure that the unique needs of child victims are met. Since the Western Pennsylvania Crimes Against Children Task Force was formed, the number of successful prosecutions involving the sexual exploitation of children has more than doubled.
The Western Pennsylvania Crimes Against Children Task force comprises representatives from the United States Postal Inspection Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Customs Service, the United States Attorney's Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania, the Allegheny County Police Department, the Allegheny County Sheriff's Office, the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office, the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General, the Pennsylvania State Police, the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, the Moon Township Police Department, A Child's Place at Mercy Hospital, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, the Center for Victims of Violent Crime, and other state and local agencies.
5315 Campbells Run Road
Pittsburgh, PA 15277-9000
In January of 1995, the Financial Crimes Task Force was formed to develop a cooperative effort with various federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, to address the growing problem of financial crime. The Financial Crimes Task Force has been charged with the investigation and prosecution of criminal offenses involving split-deposit schemes, counterfeit checks, internet fraud, stolen government checks, identity thefts and identity take-overs within Southwestern Pennsylvania, placing an emphasis on organized activity. The task force is committed to aggressively investigating and prosecuting offenders, of these financial crimes, in state and federal courts.
The following agencies participate in the task force: the United States Attorney's Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Secret Service, the Pennsylvania State Police, the Westmoreland County District Attorney's Office and its Detective Unit, the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office and its White-collar crimes Unit, the Allegheny County Police, the City of Pittsburgh Police, and the City of Greensburg Police Department. All local, county and state officers have been deputized as special deputy U.S. Marshals.
The Pittsburgh High Tech Crimes Task Force recognizes the dynamic and global threat of cyber crime. As a unit of consolidated federal, state, and local law enforcement, the task force was created with the purpose of pooling technical and investigative resources trained in computer technology and cyber crime in order to prosecute cases and advance the mission of all law enforcement agencies. Our mission is to investigate and prosecute cases, and provide forensic examination, intelligence, and technical assistance to agencies encountering computers during the course of their investigations.
Computer crime can involve criminal activities that are traditional in nature, such as theft, fraud, and forgery which involve the use of computers or the internet.
Cyber crime can simply be defined as unlawful acts wherein the computer is either a tool, a target, or both.
There are several categories of computer crimes
- Crimes facilitated by a computer:
One facet of computer crimes occurs when a computer is used as a tool to aid criminal activity including, but is not limited to, the storing records of fraud; financial crimes perpetrated by computers (making counterfeit checks and money, credit card frauds, money laundering, etc.); producing false identification; intellectual property crimes (software piracy, copyright infringement, trademarks violations, theft of computer source code, etc.); collecting and distributing child pornography over the internet; cyber stalking; internet fraud schemes (phishing and auction fraud, etc.).
- Crimes targeting an attack on a computer or computer system: Another facet of computer crime involves unauthorized access to computer systems or networks; theft of information; denial of service attacks; virus/worm attacks; Trojan attacks; web jacking; and extortion.
- Crimes utilizing a computer as storage: The last facet of computer crime includes child pornography (storage of child pornography graphic files); and copyright infringement by organized group (storage of warez).
Task force members include: United States Attorney's Office, Western District of Pennsylvania; Federal Bureau of Investigation; United States Postal Inspection Service; United States Defense Criminal Investigative Service; United States Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation; United States Secret Service; Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General; Pennsylvania State Police; Allegheny County Sheriff's Office; Allegheny County District Attorney's Office; Allegheny County Police; Port Authority of Allegheny County Police; City of Pittsburgh Bureau of Police.
To obtain the assistance of the task force, contact any of the participating agencies listed above and ask to speak with their task force representative.
On June 9, 2004, the Attorney General announced that Pittsburgh was one of fifteen cities that was establishing a Violent Crime Impact Team (VCIT) in order to reduce violent crime. This interagency effort is being led by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which has increased its number of agents. Working with ATF are the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Postal Inspection Service, the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation, the United States Marshals Service, the Pennsylvania State Police, the City of Pittsburgh Police and the Allegheny County Sheriff's Office.
The team is focusing its investigative efforts on the most violent criminals and their associates who perpetuate the cycle of firearms related violence within the "targeted communities" of Pittsburgh. These "targeted communities" are those geographic areas with a disproportionate number of shootings, homicides or other violent crime.
The overall VCIT strategy began with the identification of the most violent offenders and targeted geographic areas. The number, location, and type of homicides and other violent crimes committed with or without firearms was analyzed. This required close coordination with homicide detectives, violent crime units, firearms tracking units, the Allegheny County Firearms Injury Surveillance System, National Integrated Ballistics Information Network and the ATF Crime Gun Analysis Branch. Both the ATF National Laboratory and the Allegheny County Coroner's Office Forensic Laboratories Division are integral partners in the success of VCIT in Pittsburgh.
Once a violent offender or geographic "hot spot" has been identified, Agents and Task Force members employ a multitude of investigative techniques to eradicate the problem(s) in that area. The Task Force goal is to eliminate the problem without causing the violent offender to be merely displaced to a "non-targeted" area. This can only have a positive and long-term impact in a community if accompanied by an equally aggressive federal and state prosecution strategy.
For these efforts to be fully successful, it is imperative that the VCIT Task Force include and utilize the valuable resources that exist within the affected communities. This includes integration into community meetings, neighborhood watch programs and social events to further identify problems and to aid in the development of solutions.
In its first four months of operation, Pittsburgh's Violent Crime Impact Team made 105 arrests, primarily for illegal firearms possession, state violations of the Uniform Firearms Act, and illegal possession of heroin, crack and marijuana, and recovered or accounted for 34 firearms out of 45 reported stolen.
United States Marshals Service
Western Pennsylvania Fugitive Task Force
700 Grant Street, Suite 2360
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
412-422-GRAB(4722) or 412-644-6628
The Western Pennsylvania Fugitive Task Force is a multi-agency, collaborative law enforcement effort sponsored by the U.S. Marshals Service that specializes in locating and apprehending violent felony fugitives in the 25 counties of Western Pennsylvania wanted on warrants with underlying charges of firearms, narcotics and crimes of violence.
The following agencies participate on the task force: U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania State Police, Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole, Allegheny County Sheriff's Office, Erie County Sheriff's Office, Cambria County Sheriff's Office, Blair County Sheriff's Office, Bedford County Sheriff's Office, Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, Erie Police Department, Ebensburg Police Department, Punxsutawney Police Department, Richland Township Police Department, Tyrone Police Department, Altoona Police Department, Logan Township Police Department, Roaring Spring Police Department, Hollidaysburg Police Department, Allegheny Township Police Department, and Blair Township Police Department.
In February 2008, federal, state and local law enforcement joined forces with regulatory agencies to launch the Western Pennsylvania Mortgage Fraud Task Force, a strategic partnership intended to combat the growing problem of mortgage fraud throughout Western Pennsylvania.
The Mortgage Fraud Task Force brings together representatives from the U.S. Attorney's Office, U.S. Secret Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development - Office of Inspector General, Office of the United States Trustee, Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office, Pennsylvania Department of Banking, Pennsylvania Department of State, Bureau of Enforcement and Investigation and the Allegheny County Sheriff's Office to investigate and prosecute mortgage fraud offenders.
Mortgage fraud is generally described as a scheme involving the submission of false information to lenders and others in order to obtain mortgage loans that would not otherwise have been approved. Such schemes often include the submission of false information to lenders and others in order to obtain loans at higher values and lower rates than would be available through legitimate means. A typical mortgage fraud scheme employs various professionals such as recruiters, attorneys, appraisers, mortgage brokers, and builders. For example, a victim is recruited. A set of falsified loan application documents, including an inflated appraisal, is prepared and submitted to a victim lender resulting in the issuance of an over-valued loan. Ultimately the property is foreclosed upon due to the inability of the victim buyer to maintain the payments. The lender loses the difference between the foreclosure sale proceeds and the loan balance. The buyer loses any down payment and is left with a credit history that precludes being approved for a mortgage in the future. The conspirators pocket the difference between the overvalued loan and their costs in obtaining the property. Other victims include property owners in the area who see property values plummet as a result of foreclosure sales or vacant foreclosed properties.
A mortgage fraud hotline has been established for industry members to call to report potential fraud. The number is 412-894-7550. Once potential abuses have been reported, the Task Force will work with other appropriate law enforcement and prosecutorial entities to evaluate and investigate the claims.
Consumers may report suspected fraud by calling the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-441-2555 or by downloading a complaint form from www.attorneygeneral.gov.