ACAMS Today caught up with Supervisory Special Agent (SSA) Delicia Speller, a 13-year FBI veteran, for International Women’s Day 2022. She currently serves as a program manager at the FBI headquarters’ (FBIHQ) Criminal Investigative Division (CID), Balkan Eurasian La Cosa Nostra Organized Crime Unit overseeing all FBI Eurasian organized crime investigations. In this capacity, SSA Speller coordinates operations and funding with the various FBI field offices and liaises with our Legal Attaché offices worldwide. Prior to FBIHQ, SSA Speller was assigned to the FBI San Diego field office, working a multitude of investigations in drug trafficking, illegal gambling and money laundering violations. Throughout her career, SSA Speller has served on several special assignments, including a one-year, joint interagency effort to plan and develop the first U.S. strategic plan to deter drug trafficking organizations using a whole-of-government approach. Immediately afterward, SSA Speller traveled to the Department of Defense HQUSEUCOM (European Command) in Stuttgart, Germany, for six months on behalf of CID to counter transnational organized crime actors alongside the U.S. military. SSA Speller is also a captain in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, serving as a Space Force operations officer at Vandenberg Space Force Base, CA.
ACAMS Today (AT): This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #BreakTheBias. How are you breaking the bias in your workplace, communities and beyond?
Delicia Speller (DS): As a minority female, it’s important to be engaged with the public and other colleagues in the workplace. I have done many presentations at local schools and met with numerous professionals in the private and public sectors. I believe being a subject matter expert in my field of criminal investigations has shown that women are just as effective at their job as their male counterparts. By speaking with students, I become that role model for young women to aspire to be future federal law enforcement (LE) agents.
AT: Tell us what inspired you to join the FBI.
DS: Actually, it was the show The X-Files that inspired me to be an investigator. I was a teenager when the show aired, and I was intrigued by the mystique of the FBI. The nature of the investigations on the show and the traveling to different cities piqued my interest in becoming an FBI agent. I met David Duchovny a few years ago and told him that his show inspired me to be an agent. He was impressed!
AT: What would you say is the most interesting part of your job?
DS: Working with other local, state and federal agencies, as well as our foreign partners, has been the most interesting. Each agency has a unique set of authorities and capabilities that we can leverage to help mitigate threats.
AT: In the next five years, which financial crime will be the most challenging for professionals in LE and financial institutions to identify?
DS: I envision cryptocurrency to continue to be a challenge as many criminal actors engaged in human trafficking, drug trafficking and even sanctions evasion will continue to launder and conceal their illicit proceeds through virtual assets. However, the FBI and other U.S. government entities now have the tools to identify the perpetrators and bring them to prosecution.
AT: Could you share an experience where a public-private partnership has helped you solve a crime or helped in capturing a criminal?
DS: Yes, I worked an illegal gambling case in San Diego that involved enormous money laundering operations in casinos in Las Vegas, NV and San Diego, CA. The Nevada Gaming Commission was a critical partner in assisting with the case, and we indicted 30 defendants, including two San Diego casinos, for money laundering conspiracy and a failure to adhere to anti-money laundering regulations. We seized more than $5 million in illicit proceeds to include four residential properties and garnered widespread media attention about organized crime still being active in casinos.
AT: As a female in LE, what advice do you have for women looking to enter the field?
DS: Don’t be fearful of joining a male-dominated career field. Women have many unique attributes in the field of investigations, and we have achieved significant career success, whether as investigators or as executive managers.
AT: What do you enjoy doing when you are off the clock?
DS: I enjoy spending my time hiking with my Labrador retriever and getting together with friends on the weekends.
Interviewed by: ACAMS Today Editorial, ACAMS, firstname.lastname@example.org