Oklahoma City FBI: We remain resilient amid growing criminal threats

The men and women of the FBI Oklahoma City Field Office have a fierce passion for our mission: To protect the American people and uphold the Constitution of the United States. As I reflect on our work over the past year, the list of criminal and national security threats we face is not only growing, but also becoming more complex. The expectations placed on our workforce have never been higher, and we are committed to maintaining the trust and confidence of the communities we serve. By highlighting just a few recent successes, my hope is that you will know the positive impact of the FBI’s efforts in Oklahoma.

Indian country crime

The 2020 Supreme Court ruling in McGirt v. Oklahoma drastically increased the FBI’s jurisdiction over felony offenses involving tribal members. The federal government is now responsible for prosecuting crimes committed by or against Native Americans within the territories of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee (Creek), Seminole and Quapaw tribes. Combined, all six territories encompass about 32,000 square miles, or 45% of the state, and account for a total population of almost 2 million. To put that into perspective, the FBI in Oklahoma historically managed roughly 50 criminal cases per year involving Native Americans, but the SCOTUS decision shifted several thousand Indian country cases to us virtually overnight. Dozens of violent criminals across Oklahoma were scheduled for immediate release from custody. The FBI moved to quickly rearrest the most dangerous offenders. The FBI conservatively prevented hundreds of new offenses in the immediate aftermath of the McGirt decision. This is especially noteworthy as Native Americans statistically suffer higher levels of violent crime within their communities.

In his congressional testimony earlier this year, FBI Director Christopher Wray said, “The Oklahoma City Field Office now has the FBI’s largest investigative responsibility.” In response, the bureau surged an abundance of resources in the form of special agents and support staff from all over the country to work temporary rotations in the areas most impacted by the McGirt decision. We also strengthened our partnerships by deputizing several hundred state, local and tribal police officers as FBI Safe Trails Task Force Officers, allowing them to lead and assist with federal investigations. In addition, Director Wray made a formal request to Congress for dozens of new permanent positions throughout Oklahoma, with the goal of prioritizing Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons cases, and pursuing justice for victims under newly expanded legislation, such as the Violence Against Women’s Act and Savanna’s Act.

Violent crime

It’s no secret that modern criminal organizations are becoming more dangerous and sophisticated, but the FBI has never been more poised to take on the challenge.

In 2022, we announced one of the most prolific criminal enterprises operating in the heart of Oklahoma City was successfully dismantled. This would not have been possible without the strategic coordination of the U.S. attorney’s office for the Western District of Oklahoma, the Oklahoma City Police Department and other law enforcement partners. The culmination of this five-year, statewide investigation into a violent drug trafficking gang is best illustrated by the following accomplishments:

  • Over 160 federal indictments

  • 2,400 pounds of methamphetamine seized

  • Over $1.4 million in cash seized

  • 266 firearms taken off the street

I have no doubt Oklahoma residents are safer as a result of this investigation and the efforts of the FBI’s Safe Streets Task Force. Our partnerships with other local, state and federal agencies have enhanced the impact of our cases in ways I can’t quantify. We will continue to work with our allies in the fight against violent crime in Oklahoma and across the nation.

Cyber crime

The FBI has remained vigilant against the growing threat of nation-state and criminal cyber actors, and this year we’ve imposed risk and consequences on many of our technical adversaries. For example, three defendants were charged in the Western District of Oklahoma with violating federal wire fraud and money laundering statues in an operation to sell over $88 million in stolen software licenses from Avaya Holdings Corp. This massive scheme prevented Avaya from profiting from its intellectual property as the defendants undercut the global market in the company’s software licenses, and developed into the second-largest software piracy case ever prosecuted in U.S. history.

Additionally, two of Oklahoma’s cyber-trained special agents were honored this year with the 30th Annual Director’s Award for Excellence in an Outstanding Cyber Investigation. For over five years, the FBI and Department of Justice officials worked to disrupt the complex operations of a malicious, cyber-enabled group whose mission is to further Russia’s geopolitical objectives and solidify the country’s influence abroad. This investigation resulted in the indictment of six Russian military intelligence officers responsible for executing the costliest cyber-attack in history.

These are just a few of the many successes we have worked toward over the past year. The impact of our work has only been enhanced by the collaboration and support of our government, private sector, and community partners. We are honored and humbled to serve alongside them and remain steadfast in our joint commitment to the citizens of Oklahoma.

Edward J. Gray is the special agent in charge for the FBI in Oklahoma City.
Edward J. Gray is the special agent in charge for the FBI in Oklahoma City.

Edward J. Gray is the special agent in charge for the FBI in Oklahoma City.

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Oklahoma City FBI: We remain resilient amid growing criminal threats