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Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) conducts investigations of IP-related criminal activity, including infringement of trademark and copyright law.[1]

ICE’s primary mission is to protect the homeland. It is also responsible for combating commercial fraud, which includes IP enforcement. ICE’s interim agency-wide strategic plan and its plan for commercial fraud are law enforcement sensitive and not available to the public. However, according to ICE officials, the top priorities within commercial fraud enforcement are public health and safety violations and IP infringement.

Within ICE’s Office of Investigations, the Critical Infrastructure and Fraud Division develops the agency’s IP policies and oversees its IP enforcement efforts.[2] The division’s IP responsibilities are handled by the Branch for Commercial Fraud and Intellectual Property Rights, which also houses the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center.

In 2006, ICE created Document and Benefit Fraud Task Forces (DBFTFs). These DBFTFs, located in 17 cities throughout the United States, are aimed at dismantling and seizing the financial assets of criminal organizations that threaten the nation’s security by engaging in document and benefits fraud.

Although the center is officially an interagency coordination body, it plays a lead role in developing and carrying out ICE’s IP enforcement policies. In addition, ICE has a Cyber Crimes Center ("C3") that focuses on Internet-based crimes, including IP piracy, and provides referrals and investigative assistance to ICE’s field offices. IP investigations are carried out by agents located in about 100 U.S. cities, organized under ICE’s 26 field offices.

Sexual exploitation of children[]

ICE was one of the first federal law enforcement agencies to combat the sexual exploitation of children. Beginning in the 1970s, ICE, under the legacy U.S. Customs Service, used its unique customs and border authority to investigate individuals and groups that were introducing child pornography into the United States. Since 2003, ICE has continued this effort through enforcement of transborder violations of federal child exploitation statutes, including those related to child pornography.

The agency becomes involved in cases with foreign links, primarily focusing on child pornography that enters the United States from abroad. In addition, ICE investigates, interdicts, and prosecutes those individuals involved in, among other things:

  • possession, receipt, distribution, advertisement, transportation, and production of child pornography;
  • trafficking of children for sexual purposes; and
  • traveling in foreign commerce to engage in sexually explicit conduct with minors (also known as sex tourism).

ICE’s Office of Investigations established the Cyber Crimes Center to more effectively focus ICE resources on Internet crimes. The center brings together all ICE resources dedicated to the investigation of international criminal activity conducted on or facilitated by the Internet, including the sharing and distribution of child pornography. The center also trains personnel and upgrades their techniques to combat the diverse ways in which offenders download, possess, and distribute child pornography. The center acts as a clearinghouse and directs investigations to applicable areas within the United States and foreign countries. Through the Cyber Crimes Center, ICE addresses smuggling over “traditional” borders as well as smuggling associated with the Internet.


  1. Among the agencies that conduct criminal investigations, only ICE has staff dedicated exclusively to IP enforcement. These include ICE staff assigned to the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center and a commercial fraud team in one of its field offices that focuses solely on IP enforcement.
  2. The division also investigates immigration violations, customs fraud, and cases involving worksite enforcement and human smuggling.