On May 9, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) announced its third annual Law Enforcement Awards to law enforcement agencies that use Bank Secrecy Act data provided by financial institutions in their criminal investigations. The program seeks to recognize law enforcement agencies that made effective use of financial institution reporting to obtain a successful prosecution, and to demonstrate to the financial industry the value of its reporting to law enforcement. The following agencies were recognized:
- Suspicious Activity Report Review Task Force Category—New York State Police. Based on a financial institution reporting an unusual pattern of cash deposits, the New York State Police Special Investigations Unit identified suspicious transactions occurring in the Hudson Valley Region indicative of money laundering. The investigations led to the identification of expansive criminal organizations responsible for bringing large quantities of narcotics into the region, operating business fronts used for money laundering, and extensive gang activity.
- Transnational Organized Crime/Third Party Money Launderers Category—FBI. After receiving a referral from local law enforcement regarding an individual suspected of carrying out various fraud and money laundering schemes, the FBI conducted an investigation, and its review of sensitive financial information resulted in investigators uncovering a network of criminal actors located in the U.S. and Canada, which was bringing in $100-$300 million in annual criminal proceeds in North America alone.
- Transnational Security Threats Category—FBI. The FBI used a high volume of sensitive financial information obtained in connection with its investigation into a criminal organization moving hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars to support foreign nuclear and ballistic missile programs, to identify two families that operated a network of exchange houses, precious metals companies, trading companies, and front companies throughout the Middle East to carry out financial activity for the benefit of multiple OFAC-sanctioned entities, as well as several entities with close ties to foreign military organizations.
- Cyber Threats Category—Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI). A multi-year, multi-agency investigation led by IRS-CI focused on several targets selling narcotics on the dark web and distributing them throughout the U.S. The investigation identified sensitive financial information, which enabled investigators to corroborate the financial and personal information of the targets. The data also indicated that the subjects used Bitcoins in an effort to conceal their illicit proceeds. The information identified in the financial data and from subpoenas issued to numerous financial institutions and Bitcoin exchangers helped clarify the series of transactions conducted to launder the funds.
- Significant Fraud Category—Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS). DCIS initiated a long-term investigation based on structuring and excessive credit card charges identified by multiple financial institutions on a single individual. Investigators determined that one of the subjects was transferring funds to a shell company owned by a U.S. military official. A detailed analysis of sensitive financial information and contract documents revealed that the U.S. military official had received bribes from the primary target in exchange for helping the primary target win military contracts in Afghanistan.
- Third-Party Money Launderers Category—Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). HSI investigators utilized an extensive volume of sensitive financial information to assist in their investigation into a large-scale illegal third-party money laundering organization. The investigation began based largely on information gleaned from a FinCEN-issued Geographic Targeting Order (GTO). The GTO information used by investigators allowed them to identify an “armored car company, which was importing U.S. dollars and Mexican pesos from casas de cambio in Mexico and depositing them into shell company bank accounts that were opened and operated by the two individuals who owned and operated the company.”