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Investigative and Enforcement Services (IES)

Investigative and Enforcement Services (IES), through a staff of roughly 140 employees,  provides investigative, enforcement, and regulatory support services to APHIS’s Animal Care, Biotechnology Regulatory Services, Plant Protection and Quarantine, and Veterinary Services programs, as well as for APHIS’s Agricultural Quarantine Inspection activities carried out through the Department of Homeland Security, the Customs and Border Protection.  IES’ work is divided between two groups.  Field Investigators conduct investigations and produce Reports of Investigation (ROIs).  Headquarters Enforcement staff members review completed ROIs for evidentiary sufficiency.  When the information and evidence gathered during an investigation supports the finding of a violation, APHIS may pursue enforcement action against the person or entity that violated APHIS’s regulatory requirements.

Investigative Process:

  • When APHIS personnel discover a potential violation of APHIS regulations, they may request a formal investigation by IES.
  • The investigation is a fact finding mission, which may include collecting documents; taking photographs; and interviewing witnesses, including the alleged violator.
  • As part of its investigative process, IES provides alleged violators with the opportunity to submit any evidence that may clear them of wrongdoing.
  • Once the investigation is complete, the Investigator prepares a ROI, which summarizes the investigative findings.
  • The Investigator sends the ROI and all evidence collected to IES’ enforcement staff for review.


Enforcement Process:

  • When the enforcement staff receives the ROI and accompanying evidence, a Specialist reviews and analyzes this information to determine if the violation is substantiated by the evidence provided.
  • If the evidence shows a violation occurred, the enforcement staff determines whether an enforcement action is appropriate. 
  • What enforcement action is taken, if any, depends on the seriousness of the issue and the number of alleged violations, among other things.
  • Before carrying out any enforcement action, IES consults with the referring program.
  • Enforcement actions may include an official warning, a voluntary settlement agreement, a referral to the Office of the General Counsel (OGC) for administrative action, or, in cases involving the most serious violations, a referral to the United States Department of Justice for civil or criminal action.
  • When IES issues an official warning, it closes the investigative file involving the alleged violation.
  • Pre-litigation settlement agreements.
    • In appropriate instances, IES may offer pre-litigation settlement agreements to alleged violators.  These settlement agreements may include a monetary penalty or other sanction.  IES determines monetary penalties using guidelines that APHIS developed based on penalty provisions in the various laws that APHIS administers.
    • Settlement agreements generally contain settlement terms that are more favorable to the alleged violator than what APHIS would seek through administrative, civil, or criminal action.
    • Settlement agreements advise the alleged violator that he or she has an opportunity for a hearing, and that he or she may waive the hearing by accepting the settlement agreement and paying the penalty (or accepting the terms of settlement) within a specified time.
    • If the alleged violator accepts the settlement agreement, IES closes its investigative file.
    • If the alleged violator does not accept the settlement agreement, IES will refer the violation to OGC for administrative action, generally seeking a larger penalty or more serious sanction.
  • IES may also refer a violation directly to OGC for administrative action, without first offering a settlement agreement.
  • The Rules of Practice Applicable to Proceedings Pending Before the Secretary of Agriculture govern all proceedings filed by OGC. 

Additional Information