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IRS-CI Chief Jim Lee Will Call It a Career in April

Lee, a 29-year veteran of the agency who has served as chief of IRS Criminal Investigation since 2020, will retire on April 6.

Happy trails to IRS Criminal Investigation unit chief Jim Lee who is retiring on April 6. His successor has not yet been named, the IRS said earlier this week.

Lee has led IRS-CI since October 2020. During that three-year period, he has overseen a staff of more than 3,200 CI employees, including 2,200 special agents, who have investigated thousands of financial crimes involving tax violations, money laundering, public corruption, cybercrime, identity theft, narcotics trafficking, human trafficking, and terrorism financing.

In addition, approximately 140 special agents are members of a rapid response force providing support and security to local and federal first responders during national disasters and national emergencies.

“It has been the honor of my career to serve as the chief of CI and represent the 3,000-plus employees within the division” Lee said in a statement on Feb. 12. “I have been fortunate to be surrounded by talented men and women across every discipline of the organization as we have unraveled some of the most complex financial crimes this world has ever seen. I will miss the job, my colleagues, and the challenges we faced together.”

Lee is a 2023 recipient of the Presidential Rank Award for Distinguished Service and was recently chosen to co-chair the Treasury Department’s Counter-Fentanyl Strike Force.

He has been at the helm of CI during some of the most significant enforcement actions in the agency’s 100-plus-year history, including the shutdown of the largest darknet marketplace and the largest financial seizure in the history of government. Lee has also been an active leader in the Joint Chiefs of Global Tax Enforcement—also known as “the J5”—committed to combatting transnational tax crime through increased enforcement collaboration. The Joint Chief collaborate to gather information, share intelligence, conduct operations and build the capacity of tax crime enforcement officials.

“Chief Lee has been an incredible federal servant—starting out as a special agent and then climbing the ranks to lead CI, the law enforcement arm of the IRS,” said IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel. “Chief Lee epitomizes the agency’s guiding principles, and CI has done impactful work on a global level under his leadership.”

Lee received many congratulatory comments to his post announcing his retirement on LinkedIn, including from former IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig who wrote, “Among the highlights of serving as the IRS CIR was my privilege to work with you as Chief of IRS-CI. Amazing efforts, every day. You represented both the agency and our country extremely well domestically as well as throughout the world. Leading the Night Guard, you and your CI Special Agents continually made numerous personal sacrifices and achieved outstanding results almost as a matter of course. Wishing you the absolute best life has to offer going forward and a HUGE THANK YOU to you, your family and everyone at IRS-CI!”

IRS-CI Deputy Chief Guy Ficco wrote, “Congratulations Chief. It has truly been my pleasure to serve directly under you these past 18 months, and under your tutelage. You have taken CI forward and have left an indelible mark for everyone who comes after you. Thank you for so much as you pivot to the next challenge in your life!”

Prior to his selection as chief, Lee served as the deputy chief of CI from August 2019 to October 2020. He began his career with the IRS in 1995 as a special agent in Detroit and also served as the special agent in charge of the New Orleans field office and the executive special agent in charge of the Chicago field office.

Lee has also served in other executive roles for CI, including director of strategy, director of northern field operations, director of southern field operations, and deputy chief.

“Jim, welcome to the Former Chief’s club!” wrote Don Fort, Lee’s predecessor as IRS-CI chief who served in that role from 2017 to 2020. “Thank you for your service to the American people, you have much to be proud of. Congratulations and best of luck in your next chapter.”