How Undercover Agents Investigate Crime

Undercover agents must maintain their cover, even at great expense. They may rent new homes, change their appearances and adopt false names. They must also create and maintain fake tax records, payrolls, incorporation papers and phone lines.


Michael Malone was a natural fit for infiltrating Al Capone’s Chicago gang, with his Irish looks and ability to blend in with the other members. His secret work led to convictions for several of the gang’s top leaders. 광주흥신소

Infiltrating Criminal Groups

Undercover investigations are often used to identify criminal groups. For example, a department store loss prevention unit might partner with local police to investigate illegal activity at pawnshops and flea markets, suspect wholesalers or retailers and online websites where stolen merchandise may be sold. Investigators who use this method of investigation must be adept at observation and have the ability to take on a new persona, staying in character for as long as necessary to gather evidence.

Undercover agents are also often used in reactive criminal investigations, such as attempting to locate fugitives. For instance, one federal agent posing as a radical infiltrated the milieu of members of the Weather Underground faction of Students for a Democratic Society and developed an intense relationship with a woman. In the end, she refused to inform police of his true identity and had an abortion at his request.

The FBI’s Undercover Operations Division or WOD has highly specialized officers who work u 광주흥신소 ndercover to infiltrate criminal organizations. These officers are able to maintain their cover identities in a variety of ways, including committing crimes, becoming addicted to drugs or developing relationships with other undercover agents. WOD investigators have the authority to conduct a proprietary undercover operation for cases where other investigative tools, such as surveillance and confidential reliable informants, are insufficient to meet the objectives of the case.

Crime Scene Management

A successful investigation often depends upon securing and documenting crime scenes. This includes establishing security, preventing people from entering or leaving the scene and establishing a pathway for authorized investigators to re-enter a crime scene without contaminating it. During the initial stages, it is also important to determine the timeline of a criminal event. This can help investigators figure out when a crime occurred and where other possible locations that evidence may be found might be.

In some jurisdictions, Undercover agents are prohibited from encouraging suspects to commit crimes through agent provocateur or entrapment techniques. This is because these tactics can potentially jeopardize the safety of the investigator, other members or innocent members of the public.

During a sting operation, Undercover agents infiltrate business informal groups as regular employees to gather information about theft, drug usage, inventory shrinkage and other issues. This information is then used to inform other departments and law enforcement about suspected criminal activities.

Supervisors will only assign a member to work undercover if they are confident in their ability to perform in this covert role. A written operational plan must be created and approved by a sergeant or above. It must include communications that will take place between the undercover member and cover officers during the operation. This can include radio nets, pagers and predetermined visual and audio signals for communication.

Detecting Fraud

Fraud is a global problem that costs businesses billions in lost funds, diminished value and irreversible damage to customer trust. It also results in criminals, such as hackers, stealing identities and financial information to commit identity theft and other crimes.

Undercover agents can help infiltrate these groups to gather evidence that can be used in a prosecution. They can also work at the crime scene and assess the situation to determine if there are any other important pieces of evidence that need to be located.

Before an undercover agent can begin work, he or she must undergo training in standard police patrol and other law enforcement practices to familiarize themselves with the local criminal network. Some agencies require that new recruits spend two to three years on uniformed patrol before they become eligible for undercover assignments.

During the course of an undercover investigation, the sworn member will be in direct contact with a suspect. This could be a meeting at an address or a private telephone call. During these interactions, it’s the undercover member’s responsibility to identify himself as an officer and not commit any criminal offenses that would compromise his or her cover.

Upon initiating and throughout the course of an undercover operation, the SAC or designated Supervisory Special Agent should consult on a continuing basis with the appropriate Federal prosecutor, particularly with respect to the propriety of the operation and the legal sufficies and quality of the evidence that is being produced by the activity. The SAC may delegate this responsibility to designated Assistant Special Agents in Charge, but a written approval from FBI Headquarters must still be obtained.

Obtaining Evidence

Undercover investigation techniques are often necessary in order to obtain evidence that would not otherwise be available. For example, if a suspect obscures his or her IP address, undercover work may be required in order to gain access to the data and uncover the hidden information. This might involve contacting the suspect and befriending him or her in the hopes that information will be disclosed to the UC.

Undercover operations must be carefully planned and monitored to avoid danger and legal problems. It is essential that the sworn agent is qualified for the role and supervised by a sergeant or above. In addition, it is important that adequate cover officers are present to protect the undercover member if there is a need to break contact.

The FBI has authority to authorize undercover activities in sensitive circumstances involving white-collar crime, public corruption, terrorism, offenses involving controlled substances, and other priority matters. In these situations, the SAC or a designated Supervisory Special Agent shall discuss with the undercover employee the conduct that is expected to occur and any other sensitive or fiscal circumstances reasonably anticipated in the operation.

If it is determined that the undercover operation would have a significant probability of achieving its objectives and that prosecution of any meritorious case that develops will outweigh any potential risk of injury, financial or otherwise, to innocent parties, the SAC or the designated Supervisory Special Agent shall approve the participation of the undercover employee. This decision must be documented and transmitted to FBIHQ immediately.