Utah Department of Public Safety and FBI recognized as model cybercrime fighters

SALT LAKE CITY -- The unique partnership between the Utah Department of Public Safety and the FBI to stop cybercrimes is getting national attention.

The U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Assistance just released a report called “The Utah Model: A Path Forward for Investigating and Building Resilience to Cybercrime,” that shows how a federal and state partnership can catch and prosecute online criminals.

“The Utah Model report is being shared with other agencies across the country to get other law enforcement agencies involved in cybercrimes,” said Keith Squires, Utah Department of Public Safety Commissioner.

Some law enforcement agencies were unable to pursue online criminals because the crimes were committed in another country. Also, the exponential growth of cybercrimes made it difficult for one agency to handle all of them.

“The one thing we learned before we got together with the FBI and investigating cybercrimes is that there was a whole other level of cyber activity that never had an opportunity to be investigated,” Squires said.

The FBI and DPS partnership started five years ago. The agencies set up an Internet crime complaint center and started prioritizing cybercrime leads they could work on together.

Two years ago during the FBI’s Operation Wellspring, DPS helicopters followed suspects who placed a hidden electronic device called a “skimmer” at an ATM in Sandy to steal credit card information.

The helicopters followed and helped in the arrest of the suspects after they started using the credit card information to get money at ATMs in Sandy and Orem. Alexandru and Ionela Stefan were eventually convicted on federal bank fraud charges.

“The key to it is to not only go after the bad guys that are doing this, but also create a deterrence that didn’t exist before," Squires said.

The report recommends that federal state and local law enforcement agencies should also enlist the help of private businesses to track, report, and prosecute online crimes.