IR-2024-134: Two IRS teams named finalists for Service to America Medals during Public Service Recognition Week; honored for paperless processing, $3.4 billion cryptocurrency seizure

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IRS Newswire May 6, 2024

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Issue Number:    IR-2024-134

Two IRS teams named finalists for Service to America Medals during Public Service Recognition Week; honored for paperless processing, $3.4 billion cryptocurrency seizure

WASHINGTON To help celebrate this year’s Public Service Recognition Week, the Internal Revenue Service today recognized two IRS teams that reached the finals for the 2024 Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals.

Being recognized are the IRS Paperless Processing Initiative team of Darnita Trower, Wanda Brown and Gerald Johnson as well as a special agent duo from IRS Criminal Investigation (CI) – Trevor McAleenan and Michael Lane – for their work on a $3.4 billion cryptocurrency seizure and forfeiture.

Awarded by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service, the annual Service to America Medals, known as the Sammies and considered the “Oscars” of public service, recognize outstanding contributions by career federal employees that benefit the nation, build trust in the government and inspire more people to consider careers in public service.

The final winners of these prestigious awards will be announced on the week of Sept. 9. In addition, both IRS teams are eligible to win the Sammies People’s Choice award, which gives special recognition to one of the 2024 finalists and is based solely on the total number of votes each finalist receives online.

This year’s voting starts today at the People’s Choice award. Anyone can vote for the top picks and honor the achievements of the country’s outstanding public servants.

Improving taxpayer service and moving toward a paperless IRS

The Paperless Processing Initiative team, led by Trower, Brown and Johnson, are selected finalists for the Management Excellence Medal of the 2024 Sammies in recognition of their significant accomplishment that exemplifies efficient, effective and results-oriented government.

With funding from the Inflation Reduction Act, the IRS launched the Paperless Processing Initiative in August 2023 to advance the goal of providing world-class customer service to taxpayers. By the 2024 filing season, the Paperless Processing Initiative team had successfully developed and implemented a new digital system that enables taxpayers to electronically submit all correspondence, non-tax forms and notice responses to the IRS, laying the groundwork for future advancements in paperless processing.

“Taxpayers will not only be able to do things at their fingertips, but now there’s more security in their data and information. Processing efficiency will increase, and taxpayer issues will be resolved. This is an important building block toward a fully modern digital solution for the IRS,” said IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel. “This has been a team effort that sets the foundation for a fully digital experience that is ready to meet the next generation of taxpayers. IRS employees deeply appreciate all their hard work to get us where we are today and to keep us moving forward in this vital area.”

Trower, Brown and Johnson helped drive the implementation of this digital correspondence effort three months ahead of schedule, overseeing a sweeping expansion of the agency’s Document Upload Tool to accept the submission of roughly 3,600 different types of forms and letters that taxpayers use to submit information on tax returns, refunds and credits, document verification, identity theft and more.

In the first six months of fiscal year 2024, the Document Upload Tool has accepted 265,000 submissions, with increasing numbers coming in each month. The IRS now estimates that more than 94% of individual taxpayers will no longer need to send mail to the agency and that a total of up to 125 million pieces of correspondence can be submitted digitally each year.

This team is currently expanding the new digital system to support the IRS’ 2025 and 2026 digitization goals, which include digitizing up to 1 billion historical documents, leading to lower storage costs and easier access to tax data and electronically processing all paper-filed tax returns, which will cut processing times and expedite taxpayer refunds.

Historic $3.4 billion cryptocurrency seizure and forfeiture

Trevor McAleenan and Michael Lane, two CI special agents, are nominated finalists for the Safety, Security and International Affairs Medal of the 2024 Sammies, for spearheading a cutting-edge investigation that led to the seizure and forfeiture of over $3.4 billion worth of bitcoin, one of the largest financial seizures in the history of the U.S. government.

Back in 2012, James “Jimmy” Zhong committed wire fraud by stealing over 50,000 bitcoin from the darknet market Silk Road. For nearly a decade, the whereabouts of this massive chunk of missing bitcoin remained a mystery, until two CI special agents, McAleenan and Lane, uncovered Zhong’s scheme and cracked the case.

“This is a fantastic example of the work that IRS Criminal Investigation does every day to protect against domestic and transnational financial crimes leading to tax evasion,” Werfel said. “Special Agents Trevor McAleenan and Michael Lane epitomize the tradition of IRS Criminal Investigation and the federal law enforcement community’s efforts to prevent and disrupt criminal activity to safeguard our nation.”

McAleenan and Lane combined traditional hard-nosed detective work with technological innovations to follow the money. Through relentless and skillful efforts, they examined tens and thousands of transactions to trace the movement of those funds. They also coordinated with crypto experts, used emerging technology and met with local authorities to launch a covert operation that exposed Zhong’s scheme and led to this historic victory.

“The Silk Road case should make cyber criminals take note that our special agents will follow the money and hold you accountable, no matter how sophisticated your scheme and or how long it takes,” said CI Chief Guy Ficco.

As the agency’s law enforcement arm, Criminal Investigation conducts financial crime investigations, including tax fraud, narcotics trafficking, money-laundering, public corruption, healthcare fraud, identity theft and more. CI special agents are the only federal law enforcement agents with investigative jurisdiction over violations of the Internal Revenue Code, obtaining a near 90% federal conviction rate.

Also bolstered by the additional funding received through the Inflation Reduction Act, CI’s ongoing fraud-protection work has ensured fair enforcement of the laws, as well as improved taxpayer service, new technology and wider IRS transformation efforts.


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