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Grant: Organized Crime Alive And Well In Chicago

Robert Grant, special agent-in-charge of the FBI's Chicago office. (FBI)

Robert Grant, special agent-in-charge of the FBI’s Chicago office. (FBI)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Organized crime wears a new face in Chicago — and the retiring special-agent-in-charge of the area’s FBI office says many times, it speaks a foreign language.

At the same time, the FBI’s Robert Grant said, the “Family Secrets” trial did not de-fang the Chicago Outfit.

“It’s like a cancer in remission,” or a bully who’s lost a few teeth, Grant said during the taping of Sunday’s WBBM Newsradio “At Issue” program, which airs at 9:30 a.m. and 9:30 p.m.

Grant said Eastern European-based organized crime has moved quickly into Chicago and now draws as much manpower and attention from his office as the Mafia.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Roberts reports

“Fifteen years ago, we had two organized crime squads (in Chicago) focused strictly on the Outfit,” he said. “Now we have one that, a part of their apparatus is focused on the Outfit, but the other is focused almost exclusively on Eastern European organized crime activity.”

The Outfit, he said, has always been locally run, and has focused most of its illegal activities — gambling, prostitution, juice loans and the like — locally. Not so with these new gangs.

“Some of the actors are here in Chicago. A lot of the actors are in foreign countries,” he said.

Much of that is cyber and financial crime, he said. Grant said the FBI uses much the same techniques that it has in the past with locally-based organized crime and corrupt politicians, including wiretaps and hidden microphones, but said translating can sometimes be a problem. And he said the differences in laws can make it difficult to work with foreign law enforcement, no matter how good their intentions.

“When they pick up an organized crime figure and don’t have a place to put in in a witness protection program or they don’t have the ability to plea down their sentence in return for intelligence and cooperation that affects their ability to get inside of organized crime,” he said.

Grant said in some former Soviet-bloc countries, the distrust of clandestine agencies runs high because of the abuses of the KGB and similar organizations.

That is not to say that the problem is exclusively one with roots elsewhere.

Grant said street gangs also pose a growing problem and said the FBI continues to work closely with local law enforcement. He said that in all, more than 100 of the 500 agents in his office are devoted to organized crime activity.

Grant has headed the Chicago field office of the FBI for more than seven years, but will be stepping down Sept. 3 to work with the global security team at the Walt Disney Co., where he will assess security threats and recommend responses.