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FBI Tackles HUD Probe

By Robert P. HeyStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / June 23, 1989



WASHINGTON

MOST of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's 57 field offices throughout the US are ``likely'' involved in the federal government's investigation of suspected past illegalities at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, says FBI Director William Sessions. Mr. Sessions' comment is the latest evidence of how broad the probes are into those HUD activities that may have been illegal or unethical during the eight years that Samuel Pierce was the secretary of HUD, from 1981 until early this year.

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Both current HUD Secretary Jack Kemp and members of Congress have expressed outrage at alleged fraud, and reports that the politically well connected used their influence to make large amounts of money that was intended to provide housing for the poor. Secretary Kemp has pledged to clean up the department and to install procedures to prevent a repetition of abuse.

At his quarterly meeting this week with reporters Director Sessions noted that the FBI probe fit into one of five categories that has been a priority of the FBI: white-collar crime. He called investigations of white-collar crime ``a fertile field,'' noting that nationally the government recovered between $4 and $5 for every $1 it invested in probing white-collar crime.

The other four areas the FBI has emphasized include: foreign counterintelligence, organized crime, counterterrorism, and drugs. Sessions announced that violent crime has now been added as a sixth area of emphasis. He said that the FBI ``now is considering that crimes of violence will become a national priority across all FBI programs.''

In response to a question he said that local police forces have ``the prime and principal responsibility'' to combat violent crime; the FBI's main role is to provide assistance, as with laboratory work and forensics, he added.

Sessions acknowledged that last year he had testified before Congress and said that he considered the US Justice Department strike forces to be a valuable tool in fighting crime.

But he added that he felt Attorney General Dick Thornburgh's decision earlier this week to disband those strike forces would work out well.