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Enterprise Theory of Investigation

NCJ Number
FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin Volume: 70 Issue: 5 Dated: May 2001 Pages: 19-25
Richard A. McFeely
Date Published
May 2001
7 pages
This article describes the Enterprise Theory of Investigation (ETI), the standard investigative model that the FBI uses in conducting investigations against major criminal organizations.
The ETI encourages a proactive attack on the structure of the criminal enterprise. Rather than viewing criminal acts as isolated crimes, the ETI attempts to show that individuals commit crimes in furtherance of the criminal enterprise itself. The FBI defines a criminal organization as a group of individuals with an identified hierarchy engaged in significant criminal activity. These organizations often engage in a broad range of criminal activities and have extensive supporting networks. Generally, the ETI only proves effective when the organization engages in a myriad of criminal activities. Once investigators have determined that an enterprise exists, the next step involves determining the scope of its illicit activities. Both historical and real-time evaluations help form the investigative strategy. Because investigators should base this strategy on perceived weaknesses within the enterprise, they must conduct a thorough evaluation of the enterprise's activities. The use of a joint task force is necessary in the successful application of the ETI. Immediate benefits include additional staff, access to more technical and investigative equipment, and the pooling of financial resources for items, such as payment of informants and the purchase of evidence. Attacking the flow of money has become the norm in major Federal organized crime and drug trafficking investigations. Strategic use of asset forfeiture and money laundering statutes removes not only the illegal proceeds, but more importantly it disables the systems that the enterprise has put into place to accomplish its profit goal. Investigators should interface with prosecutors as early as possible in the case. Case managers should postpone any actions that might expose the scope of the investigation until completion of the covert phase. Thus, by using favorable statutes along with a carefully laid out, multipronged attack on each established component that a criminal enterprise uses to conduct its illegal business, investigators can expand criminal culpability for a single criminal act to all members of the enterprise, regardless of whether they actually committed the crime. 3 notes