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IRS criminal investigation unit not just focused on taxes, sometimes it's violent crime

I-Team: IRS helps convict violent criminals of financial fraud in Boston
I-Team: IRS helps convict violent criminals of financial fraud in Boston 02:44

BOSTON - When you think about the IRS you usually think about doing your taxes, especially at this time of year. But, what you might not know is that the IRS Criminal Investigation unit helps go after violent criminals, including some right here in Boston.

In the Roaring Twenties, the mob had a stronghold on Chicago. Al Capone was the boss of one of the biggest crime families in the Windy City. His gang was involved with everything from gambling and prostitution to bootlegging and murder. Police spent years trying to convict him. In the end, it was tax evasion that sent him to prison.

"It's the tax fraud that saves the day"

Henry Chavis is the Special Agent in Charge of the Boston office of IRS Criminal Investigation. He said in cases where prosecutors have a difficult time gathering enough evidence for a conviction on other crimes. "Ultimately, in those cases, it's the tax fraud that saves the day."

Chavis told the I-Team, nearly 100 years later, it is still true that oftentimes crimes have a financial nexus.

Just last month, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts charged 40 members and associates of the Heath Street Gang with racketeering, drug trafficking, firearms and financial fraud, including stealing Covid funds. Officials described the group as a violent Boston gang operating out of a public housing development in Jamaica Plain.

In a news conference, acting U.S. Attorney Joshua Levy said, "These defendants also produced music videos…in some videos, they bragged, as the documents allege about murders the gang had committed. One line from a rap video allegedly talked about victims of the gang violence. And it says and I quote, 'I could say the names but it might make the feds come for us,' well the feds have come for you."

Violent crime often involves financial fraud

IRS Criminal Investigation agents were involved in the case. Chavis said, "Many people may not think of the IRS Criminal Investigation being involved with a violent type organization, a violent crime. But that is something we're seeing now. Violent criminals are now seeking to fund their operations through financial fraud."

The agency told the I-Team in Fiscal Year 2023, it identified more than $5.5 billion in tax fraud. And more than 88% of the people charged with financial fraud and tax crimes either pleaded guilty or were found guilty. 

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