The first Hispanic man to be placed in charge of the FBI’s New York field office, the largest of its kind, has taken an interesting approach to combating modern criminals and terrorists in the Big Apple.
Diego Rodriguez, a former Spanish teacher, was recruited to the FBI because of his heritage. He worked as a part of a task force that dealt with drug rings, specifically in Spanish speaking communities. He personally investigated money laundering by South American and Mexican criminals and took part in similar task forces over the years in Puerto Rico, Miami, Washington, and eventually back in his home, New York City.
He distinguished himself after his return to New York in 2010 by assisting in the investigation of Raj Rajaratnam, a Wall Street businessman who was behind a multi-billion-dollar hedge fund scheme. Using wire tapping, a technique more commonly used to monitor the drug cases that Rodriguez was familiar with than insider trading schemes, he and his team were able to gather enough evidence to put Rajaratnam behind bars.
While drugs and insider trading are still a priority for Rodriguez, he and the New York field office have turned much of their efforts towards counter terrorism. The Islamic State has taken advantage of the internet and social media as a means of recruiting vulnerable young people to their cause.
While law enforcement officials have means of observing much of the Islamic State’s online activity and have made a half dozen arrests recently of suspected sympathizers, the task has grown more complex. Recruits are being directed more and more to use encrypted email and text messages to evade investigators and prevent capture.
Unable to identify criminals using traditional surveillance methods, Rodriguez is planning a different approach. Reaching out to the community.
“It’s more likely Joe Citizen will know or see somebody radicalizing better than an FBI agent will.” says Rodriguez. By building better relationships with communities suspected of harboring or generating new terrorists, Rodriguez hopes that the communities will be able to assist as the FBI works to put the Islamic State’s recruitment plans to a stop.