Alumnus Investigates Cyber Crimes and Educates Public During Pandemic
Herb Stapleton and his teams at the FBI have stayed busy as cyber criminals attempt to take advantage of the coronavirus pandemic.
Stapleton, a section chief in the FBI’s Cyber Division, oversees the Cyber Criminal Operations section, and he is often called to educate the public about cyber scams. He recently appeared on the Today show and has presented during webinars and virtual presentations for various groups, including a hospital association and the National Association of Attorneys General.
“This is really a team effort,” said Stapleton, a 2000 graduate of the University of Kentucky College of Law, now the UK J. David Rosenberg College of Law. “There are a lot of people involved in making these things successful.”
Stapleton has been an FBI agent for about 16 years and in his current position with the FBI for over a year. He has executive oversight of all investigations into cyber criminal activities across the globe, which amounts to approximately 1,500 to 2,000 cases that can take months, or even years, to investigate. In addition, Stapleton is responsible for overseeing the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center as well as some public-private partnerships related to cyber investigations. The Internet Crime Complaint Center, know as IC3, serves as the FBI’s intake portal for all Covid-related Internet fraud complaints.
“It could be a phishing email that has a Covid theme,” he said. “Sometimes, it has to do with people trying to sell fake PPE (personal protective equipment) on the Internet. It could be charity scams – a broad range of things.”
IC3 sends information to investigators and shares public awareness messages on the IC3.gov website.
Another unit under Stapleton works to identify malicious websites and domains and have them removed by the Internet service provider.
“I get the opportunity to talk about the really great work that our teams are doing within the FBI,” Stapleton said.
In law school, Stapleton didn’t know exactly what he wanted to do with his law degree. However, he had considered a career as a prosecutor.
“As I went through my time there and got exposed to other parts of the law, that goal kind of shifted and I decided I wanted to work more in the corporate and commercial space,” said Stapleton, who practiced corporate and commercial law at a private law firm for about four years after he graduated.
He started thinking about the FBI as a career after 9/11.
“I always thought being an FBI agent would be a really interesting and fulfilling job, but I never really thought of that as a viable option until after 9/11,” he said. “The FBI was in the press a lot.”
Stapleton said the education he received at UK and his experience practicing law in a field other than criminal law continues to be “extremely valuable” in his work with the FBI. He said a lot of the crimes investigated by the FBI occur in a corporate environment.
“I think a law degree is an extremely valuable background for an FBI agent,” he said.
Stapleton has positive memories of his time at UK. Growing up in Johnson County, he was already a fan of UK sports when he enrolled for law school after receiving his Bachelor of Arts from Centre College.
Stapleton recalled being on the Moot Court Board, working as a research assistant for Professor Rutheford (Biff) Campbell, and going to Keeneland when he wasn’t studying.
“I had a tremendous experience at UK Law,” he said. “I was not a standout student by any stretch of the imagination, but I did OK. I really made some great friends there, and I got a really valuable education.”
Asked if he had any advice for current students, Stapleton said they should make the most of their time at UK Rosenberg Law.
“There are so many different ways to have a positive impact on the world, and I think UK Law is a great first step toward that,” he said.