RALEIGH, N.C. — Officials with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Raleigh say terrorism is still the agency's No. 1 priority. In fact, agents are devoting so much time to terrorism, local law enforcement agencies are picking up some of their cases.
Investigator Al Sternberg said he has worked close to 370 cases in 21 months. His job is to stop identity theft. His caseload is as much a reflection of the growing popularity of white-collar crime as it is the FBI's new mission to fight terrorism.
"No. 1 priority, no question about it. We've been given the authority from Congress to bring in hundreds of more agents devoted to strictly international terrorism," said Frank Perry, of the FBI.
Local law enforcement agencies like the Wake County Sheriff's Office must take over cases the FBI would normally investigate. Officials said most of the crimes involve some form of identity theft.
"It leads to possibly 20, 30 or 100 victims, so it generates a lot of paperwork," said Capt. Charles Young, of the Wake County Sheriff's Office.
"Even over the last few months with the explosion of new cases, I mean we would get eight, 10, 12 fraud cases a week and there's no way one person can handle all those," Sternberg said.
The Sheriff's Office has hired two more investigators to work full time on white-collar crime.
"I see it as permanent. I see it lasting at least two decades," Perry said.
The FBI said Wednesday's lowering of the terror threat does not change its emphasis on terrorism. In fact, because the United States is getting so much new intelligence information in Iraq, officials said agents have new leads on cases to check out.