On May 8, 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 – Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI). Based on a review of financial data showing a pattern of unusual cash withdrawals by one subject from a single financial institution, IRS-CI uncovered a criminal conspiracy to defraud the estate of a deceased individual of over $2 million. IRS-CI executed warrants and recovered over $500,000 and over $2 million in restitution was ordered to be returned to the true heir of the estate.
- Transnational Organized Crime/Third Party Money Launderers Category – Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Using FinCEN’s data and investigative tools, the DEA helped dismantle two Southern California and Tijuana-based money laundering schemes. Arrest warrants were issued for 27 individuals and officials were able to seize millions of dollars in cash, real estate, and vehicles.
- Transnational Security Threats Category – FBI. Utilizing FinCEN resources, an FBI investigation, conducted in coordination with the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), resulted in the blocking of $7 million in transactions used to provide access to the U.S. financial system on behalf of North Korean entities, a $20 million monetary penalty, and the addition of several entities to OFAC’s Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (SDN list).
- Cyber Threats Category – Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI). IRS-CI untangled a money laundering scheme that had generated over $17 million in proceeds through wire transfers from multiple foreign-based accounts. IRS-CI search warrants led to the forfeiture of $10 million in fraudulent proceeds and three subjects pled guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud and related activity in connection with computers, with a fourth found guilty of wire fraud and money laundering.
- Significant Fraud Category – Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). HSI led an investigation that identified a complex money laundering conspiracy in which operators at an India-based call center and U.S.-based facilitators worked together to launder $300 million. Twenty-four subjects in the United States were arrested across eight states, all of whom were convicted of conspiracy, money laundering, and various fraud crimes.
- Third-Party Money Launderers Category – Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI). IRS-CI led a multi-agency effort to combat Mexican kleptocracy. Using FinCEN resources and a high volume of financial data, an investigation resulted in seizure of over $800 million in assets and subjects being charged with various financial crimes, such as money laundering, bank fraud, wire fraud, loan fraud, and racketeering.
- State and Local Law Enforcement – Nassau County Policy Department. Nassau County Police launched an investigation after becoming aware of a high volume of cash deposits in a subject’s account. In coordination with the DEA, Nassau County Police determined the activity was a trade-based money laundering scheme designed to launder the proceeds of illegal narcotics transactions. The investigation resulted in fines totaling $8.5 million.