FBI agent talks about terrorism, trafficking and cyberattacks

By: Terry Oparka, | Troy Times | Published October 11, 2017

TROY — The last time David Gelios, special agent in charge of the Detroit Field Office for the FBI, was scheduled to speak at a Rotary Club of Troy luncheon, something came up. 

He was called away June 21 to Bishop International Airport in Flint after an airport police officer was stabbed in the neck.

“I feel happy I was able to make it this time around,” he told Rotary Club members at the Bank of America Financial Center in Troy Sept. 13. 

“It’s important to get out to the community to talk about what the FBI is doing,” he said. 

Referring to field work, he said that to him, the end does not justify the means. “That’s not my philosophy at all,” Gelios said. “If we find someone not guilty, that’s just as good for me.” 

He said that uniformed police officers are in danger. “It’s a very dangerous climate out there.”

He said that in his 23 years with the FBI, he’s never fired his weapon. 

He mentioned recent FBI investigations of Volkswagen and Takata, cases that resulted in guilty pleas and payments of $4.3 billion and $1 billion, respectively. 

“Health care fraud is a significant workload for us,” he said. He said agents of the Detroit Field Office recently arrested 16 medical professionals for opioid-related crimes. He said that 41 people, many of them doctors, were charged with crimes including insurance billing fraud and prescription abuse; 25 were convicted, and $83 million was seized and recovered. 

He noted that agents involved in the Dr. Farid Fata case are up for Service to America Medal awards, described as the “Oscars of government service” on the organization’s website. 

Fata was charged with administering medically unnecessary infusions or injections to 553 individual patients and collecting more than $34 million from fraudulent billings. He pleaded guilty in 2014 to 13 counts of fraud, conspiracy and kickback charges, and was sentenced to 45 years in federal prison. 

The Detroit Field Office is also heavily focused on stopping human trafficking and other violent crimes against children, 18, Gelios said. 

“We recovered 168 minors being trafficked this year,” he said. 

He said the crime often involves people posing as representatives of modeling agencies in malls as they try to recruit minors to work in strip clubs. In some cases, children ages 11-15 are being recruited online by people they believe are their own age but who are actually pedophiles who convince them to send suggestive videos or pictures of themselves to them. 

“They threaten to send the videos to their church and family. … We’ve had kids commit suicide,” Gelios said. “Pay attention to what your kids are doing online.”

 

FBI fights cyberattacks

and terrorism 

Gelios said that in the cyber world, the FBI is seeing more malicious software. 

He explained that in cases of ransomware, malware encrypts a company’s files so they can’t be accessed. The attacker asks for payment — ransom — “but there is no guarantee. In one case, they (the attackers) only sent half the company’s data back. They target banks, hospitals and large companies,” he said. “We don’t encourage (victims) to pay,” he said. 

In terms of terrorism, he called it “a threat that’s very real.” But he said the FBI is limited because of lack of access to databases. “We are limited — we don’t have carte blanche to check databases.” 

He said the Islamic State group is encouraging people to take the fight from Syria and other countries back to their home countries. 

“We’re most worried about the lone wolves,” he said. 

Gelios said some of the greatest threats are foreign adversaries trying to steal defense technology and subvert export control laws. 

Troy resident Joe Turner attended the luncheon with a neighbor. He said he is a day trader with accounts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and was recently a victim of ransomware. Turner said someone who said he was from Microsoft said he could fix his computer for $199. Turner didn’t pay it, but unplugged his computer. When he turned it back on, he said, it seemed like everything was OK. 

“Now I’m wondering,” he said. He said he planned to go home and call his brokers to ensure that everything was OK. 

Gelios said that a person’s first contact with the FBI is often because of a crime. Gelios said his attendance at events like the Rotary Club of Troy luncheon “builds trust in the community so they understand our mission.” 

“We were so honored to host him,” said Scott Hurrell, president of the Rotary Club of Troy. He said the luncheon with Gelios had one of the highest attendance rates of any lunch function the group has hosted.