New for this year's Annual Terrorism Financing and Money Laundering Forum, the afternoon sessions were divided into two tracks, anti-money laundering (AML) and fraud, each featuring a topical presentation and a panel discussion.
During the AML panel discussion on emerging trends, representatives from several US law enforcement agencies and the Internal Revenue Service spoke about the need for combined efforts to track down illegal activities by following the money trail. Experts cited a number of popular methods whereby criminals move large sums of money in an attempt to avoid detection, including:
- Establishing seemingly legitimate charities, then skimming money off the top for illegal purposes.
- Selling life insurance policies to many different people, making it impossible for any one person to collect.
- Setting up shell corporations in countries like Panama, and then wiring money from that entity to a second shell corporation in Eastern Europe.
- Pretending to gamble and lose hundreds of thousands of dollars at casinos, and then attempting to write off the losses.
Thomas O’Connell, of the Department of Homeland Security, gave several examples from North Carolina where individuals had established businesses such as convenience stores or cleaning businesses as a front to their real aim - funneling money to terrorist organizations or drug cartels. He told the audience that it takes cooperation on many levels to track down these offenders.
“You guys have the pieces that we need to put our cases together. There is so much money coming in; it is mind-boggling. At the end of the day, we want to get rid of these people any way we can, and you are a huge piece of the puzzle,” he said.
Although many cases are prosecuted at the state level, Douglas Miller of the IRS Criminal Investigation Division says cases are often tied to larger crime rings. “We have cases throughout North Carolina that we can connect to cases around the country and even the world. There is so much data that we are trying to dig down into. We have a lot of crime out there. And we have to work together as a team – local, state, national – to prosecute,” he said.
Read other posts in this series and tell us of your experiences with convergence of the fraud and money laundering units. How do you see this deterring financial crimes and terrorism financing?
Lisa Arney also contributed to this post.