Minot man sentenced to federal prison for drug, gun, money laundering

BISMARCK – A 37-year-old Minot man was sentenced Monday, March 18, to more than 12 years in federal prison after being convicted on drug, gun and money laundering charges.

Dennis Allen Corwin was the leader of a ring distributing meth in the Minot and Bismarck area, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

When he was arrested in Bismarck, authorities found approximately five pounds of meth and 30 firearms in his vehicle and shop in Minot. The drug ring had transported more than 70 pounds of meth from Mexico to North Dakota.

He was convicted on charges of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance; distribution of a controlled substance; possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime; possession or sale of stolen firearm; possession of firearms by a prohibited person; possession of a short-barreled shotgun; and laundering of monetary instruments, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Corwin will be on supervised probation for five years following his release from prison.

How Wells Fargo Uses AI, Biometrics To Fight Money Laundering

Digital banking customers of today aren’t looking for the bank with the newest features — they’re looking for the bank that can keep their data safe. Any security mishap can send customers to one of the other digital banking apps that are ready and waiting for them.

In the new Digital Banking Tracker™, PYMNTS examines the ways digital banking is changing as security measures grow more stringent, and challenger banks look to amass more customers.

Around the Digital Banking World

One such brand looking to expand within the next year is German challenger bank N26, which is seeking to branch out of its native Europe and into the United States. Following a funding round of approximately $300 million, the fully digital bank is aiming to compete with both U.S. incumbents and challengers by the end of 2019. The challenger’s expansion comes as banks around the world are launching platforms of their own, including financial institutions (FIs) in Thailand and the Philippines.

Thailand’s United Overseas Bank, for one, is opening a fully digital brand this year called TMRW. The digital bank is designed to target millennial consumers who are more comfortable using digital services, and comes equipped with live chat features to support digitally native conversations.

Meanwhile, several global scandals have brought the importance of anti-money laundering (AML) protections to the forefront. The more than $220 billion money laundering scandal involving Estonia-based Danske Bank continues to affect the global banking world. Several banks, including Germany’s Deutsche Bank, are caught in the crossfire, with their own AML protections coming under scrutiny from German regulators.

Tapping into Emerging Tech: How Wells Fargo is Fighting Fraud

To protect against the rise of money laundering and digital fraud hammering banks, many are turning to new technologies to stem the tide. Wells Fargo, for one, is using artificial intelligence (AI) and biometric authentication tools in combination to track patterns that human analysts overlook, according to Chuck Monroe, head of AI enterprise solutions for Wells Fargo.

“We’re using AI to go through and look across the internet, including the deep dark web, [for] signals that would apply to a particular AML situation,” Monroe said in a recent interview with PYMNTS. “There are lots of opportunities in the AML space to leverage AI to look much [deeper], because no human could do that level of investigation.”

To learn more about how Wells Fargo is using AI and biometrics for AML, take a look at the Tracker’s feature story.

Deep Dive: Digital Banking and Anti-Money Laundering

As the banking world gets more digital and interconnected, many banks are starting to worry about money laundering. Take the banks that were engaging in routine business with Danske Bank, for example. Several of those banks are now being examined by regulators to ensure that they’re staying compliant with AML rules to keep launderers out.

That said, the digital banking world is expanding quickly, which means that banks across the globe need to keep a careful eye on the methods they’re using for AML and other fraud protections. To find out how banks are upgrading their security, take a look at the Tracker’s Deep Dive.

About the Tracker

The Digital Banking Tracker™, in collaboration with Feedzai, brings the latest news, research and expert commentary from the FinTech and consumer banking space. It also includes a provider directory that features the rankings of more than 250 companies serving or powering the digital banking sector.

Crypto Activist and Bitcointopia Founder Pleads Guilty to Charges: Land Fraud, Money Laundering

By Bitcoin Exchange Guide News Team

The way to bitcoin-utopia is laden with regulatory issues and scam artists. In a recent confession, Morgan Rockoons the founder of Bitcointopia and a well-known crypto activist has conceded to both charges against him in two bitcoin-related cases.

He had been charged with an illegal wire transfer as well as being party to a real estate scam venture.

What was going on with money laundering?

In early 2018 Morgan Rockoons was under the microscope as the government came down heavily on him for money laundering. As such activities make traceability of money extremely hard and raise fears of funding criminal activities, this is considered pretty serious and dealt with appropriately.

When the case came out, news outlets were projecting this as a test case to see how far the judiciary of the land was willing to loosen the leash and allow cryptocurrency advocates to trade in fiat currency.

However, the events that transpired seem to suggest this has little to do with Crypto and more with a trader not following clearly laid down rules. According to the officials, Morgan Rockoons was running his operation without the requisite license and not following protocol. He is alleged to have transferred “about $9,200 in bitcoin to the agent for $14,500 in cash, taking the remainder as a transaction fee”.

That is exactly what the recent plea also seems to bring into focus; that the whole case had more to do with business fraud than any precedent-setting cryptocurrency case. This appears to be a simple case of a business being charged for money transmission violations without a proper financial license.

The Bitcoin City dream in ashes

At the time of his arrest, Rockoons was rather boisterous and was playing up his crypto credentials. After being released on bail he had started pushing the blockchain agenda more. And one of the ventures he advocated was a plan to start an idealistic community. He quickly went about advertising this “Bitcoin City”.

Soon all his channels and associates were pushing for this, a Disneyland-Ishq venture. To this end, the Bitcointopia Inc was launched giving everyone the impression Morgan Rockoons was a visionary and futurist.

However, this all came crashing down when he was arrested again. This time the prosecution alleged that the whole scheme was a fraud. Rockoons and his partners had pushed to sell almost a 1000 acre of undeveloped land in Elko County, Nevada to build a city centered around automation and blockchain technology.

As facts came out it became apparent that most of this was federally owned land with only about 10 odd acres in the embattled CEOs or his company’s name. In January, he seemed to be more combative, twitting:

” I am going to court on Monday at 2 PM, in room 4A, if you support me and my mission to protect Bitcoin & build a Bitcoin City please come to court and show support, it would mean the world to me, PS, Jail Sucks, Love Morgan, From FEDERAL PRISON XO”.

Yet that fire seems to have been extinguished in a little over a month as on the 8th of this month he pleads guilty to both charges of wire and land fraud.

As this publication has repeatedly stated, the actions of individuals cannot and should not reflect on the technology. Unlike men ideas are incorruptible. The idea of a freer and more transparent future should not get muddled by the actions of someone.

Weather Rockoons actions were deliberate or misinformed if a law has been broken and a fair trial has ensued then punishment should ensue.

Three Anti-Money-Laundering Trends Financial Institutions Should Know In 2019

By Tony Raval

As criminals become more sophisticated at performing money laundering activities, regulators are increasing their commitment to anti-money-laundering (AML) compliance. For banks, this means they must work diligently to maintain AML compliance amid a sea of growing regulation. It is now more important than ever to remain on top of AML compliance measures within institutions. In this article, we will explore three of the key anti-money-laundering trends and challenges for 2019.

1. AML Compliance For Cryptocurrency Becomes Standard

Global cryptocurrency adoption will continue to expand in 2019. This is causing regulatory bodies to work diligently to create AML standards for cryptocurrency companies. In 2018 we saw the release of the Fifth AML Directive in the EU, which created regulatory obligations for crypto exchanges. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) will also be releasingspecific international AML standards for crypto companies in mid-2019. As more governments acknowledge the role of cryptocurrencies in the financial system throughout the year, crypto companies will need to become serious about maintaining AML compliance.

Many crypto companies are realizing that regulations are necessary in order to keep expanding the cryptocurrency market. Regulations are not something they can avoid, and crypto companies are going to have to deal with them. As one crypto company executive put it, “One cannot exist without the other.”

2. AML Becomes Automated As False Positives Continue To Increase

The number of people with access to financial services has steadily increased over time. Financial technology (fintech) is facilitating financial inclusion in previously underrepresented populations around the world, leading to an increase in consumer adoption of financial technologies and services, especially from fintech disruptors. This is increasing the transaction volume financial institutions must monitor to maintain AML compliance.

Many financial institutions use outdated technology to run their AML programs. This technology leads to a high volume of false positives, which has adverse effects on banks. Not only does this add more friction to customers during onboarding and payment processing, but it also increases operational costs for financial institutions. As fintech disruptors continue to gain market share among consumers, many banks are shifting toward automated technologies to completely transform their AML procedures.

Expect to see fraud and risk departments in many financial institutions increase their adoption of AI and machine learning for AML monitoring. AI can detect patterns in large volumes of data as well as adapt to changes in criminal activity over time. Plus, many fraud management departments will likely add blockchain technology to monitor complex transactions in conjunction with AI technology. Since blockchain is a cryptographic ledger that is decentralized, secure and immutable in nature, it is an ideal technology for maintaining AML compliance. This means that building an AML system with AI on the blockchain will identify and stop suspicious transactions effectively with minimal friction and high efficiency.

Overall, these tools should increase the effectiveness of AML while also simplifying the process for many financial institutions.

3. Financial Institutions Work To Combat Identity Theft

With the number of data breaches reaching an all-time high in 2018, the amount of identity theft taking place in the global landscape is staggering. Criminals are using stolen identity information to create synthetic identities they then use to gain access to financial services to perform nefarious activities such as money laundering. These facts are making know your customer (KYC) an essential part of an overall AML strategy. It’s a part of the process financial institutions cannot ignore.

Regulatory technology companies are creating solutions that aim to make identity management much easier for financial institutions. Rather than relying on an internal team, financial institutions can now use identity verification solutions to quickly and efficiently verify customer identities during onboarding. Automated identity checks offer companies faster results, lower consumer friction and more accurate detection of high-risk individuals.

These technologies will help financial companies remain in compliance and avoid costly fines.

It is more important than ever to maintain AML compliance. With money laundering taking place in increasingly complex ways, the pressure is mounting for financial institutions to combat financial crime. For many institutions, increased regulations will cause them to refine their AML strategies. This will cause many fraud and risk assessment departments to use new technologies to combat money laundering within their institutions, from AI for transaction monitoring to identity verification solutions for KYC checks. These trends will shift the AML landscape in 2019 and lead to better risk management by financial institutions overall.

‘El Chapo’ renews U.S. law enforcement concerns about money laundering via prepaid cards

By Brett Wolf

NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Regulatory Intelligence) – The recent trial of Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman has reignited U.S. law enforcement officials’ concerns about the use of prepaid cards to launder proceeds of crime.

The purported abuse of prepaid cards by Guzman’s organization to move drug proceeds out of the United States, as depicted in the trial, was “definitely not shocking,” John Tobon, a senior official with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), told Regulatory Intelligence.

While prepaid card providers are required to have anti-money laundering programs{here} and must report suspicious activity, there remains no requirement that individuals moving cards loaded with cash report the funds when crossing U.S. borders.

In 2011, the U.S. Treasury Department proposed a rule{here.pdf} aimed at forcing those moving prepaid cards loaded with more than $10,000 in or out of the country to declare the funds – just as a similar amount of cash or traveler’s checks would have to be disclosed under existing rules.

But Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), facing industry pushback, has not finalized the rule{here}.

During Guzman’s trial last month, the jury heard testimony that the Sinaloa Cartel led by Guzman used prepaid cards to move drug proceeds from New York to South America to pay for cocaine. The cards, loaded with proceeds of narcotics sales in the United States were transported overseas and the cash was withdrawn at ATMs, the jury heard.

The jury convicted Guzman of money laundering conspiracy and other crimes, and the money laundering witness testimony served as a reminder to law enforcement that FinCEN has not issued a reporting requirement.

U.S. law enforcement officials with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), which probes cross-border money laundering schemes, consider FinCEN’s failure to enact a prepaid card cross-border reporting requirement problematic.

“I’ve been really fighting, getting into shouting matches with FinCEN personnel because it’s one of those things where the industry has really gone out of their way to thwart these rules,” HSI’s Tobon said.

FinCEN, which in 2016 told Regulatory Intelligence that the effort to develop a cross-border reporting rule for prepaid cards was “not dead,” did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

HSI continues to see prepaid cards used to launder money and the lack of a FinCEN rule on cross-border transport of the cards is “a significant vulnerability,” Kevin Tyrell, assistant special agent in charge with HSI in Miami, told Regulatory Intelligence.

While HSI officials are concerned about transnational organized crime rings smuggling cards loaded with dirty cash out of the country, such schemes do not always involve “mules” who carry the cards. In some cases, criminals simply mail prepaid cards with impunity, Tyrell said.

If U.S. authorities conduct an “outbound inspection” of packages at a mail facility and discover a package full of traveler’s checks, they can seize the instruments and investigate whether required reporting occurred, Tyrell said.

“But if they find a package full of prepaid cards, they still can’t do anything, they just have to let them go,” Tyrell said.

FATF Issues Preliminary Guidelines on Digital Assets to Combat Money Laundering

By Ana Berman

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an intergovernmental organization that develops policies against money laundering, has published preliminary guidelines for cryptocurrencies on its website on Thursday, Feb. 28.

The FATF held a meeting on preliminary crypto requirements on Feb. 22. According to the organization, the new text of the Interpretive Note to Recommendation 15 — which contains  requirements for regulating and supervising digital asset services providers — has been finalized.

However, the FATF expects to benefit from private sector consultations that are scheduled for May, asking entrepreneurs to send their comments to the organization by Apr. 8. Once the recommendation is finalized, it can be formally adopted by the FATF. The final meeting is scheduled for June 2019.

Firstly, the task force urges countries to follow guidelines to prevent money laundering and terrorism financing with cryptocurrencies — an amendment from a previous edition signed in 2018.

Moreover, digital asset providers are obliged to be licensed or registered in the jurisdictions they were created, and their owners have to provide identity information to relevant authorities. The FATF also adds that crypto products must sometimes be certified, should the host country requires it.

The guidelines also compel governments to form adequate regulation and supervision over digital assets. The FATF emphasizes that monitoring must be conducted by a competent authority instead of a self-regulatory body in order to successfully prevent money laundering and terrorism financing. The country that applies the guidelines must also establish criminal, civil or administrative sanctions for violating the rules.

Finally, the FATF obliges digital asset providers to obtain and keep records of senders and beneficiaries of crypto transfers, and to provide the data to appropriate state or international authorities should they require it. If a transaction is suspected to be illicit, the country has to take measures to freeze the action or prohibit the transfer.

The FATF currently has over 30 member countries. European countries make up a large percentage of the member states, including the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Germany, France and others. While the organization first issued a “risk-based-approach” guideline for cryptocurrencies in 2015, the organization amended and updated it in late 2018 following the pop of the initial coin offerings (ICO) bubble that began in 2017.

British Columbia’s money laundering is an emergency. The public deserves an inquiry.

By David Moscrop

In June 2018, former Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer Peter German released his report into money laundering in British Columbia. His independent review found that more than $75 million (or 100 million Canadian dollars) had been laundered through the province’s casinos. Canada’s westernmost province is home to about 4.8 million people, so that’s a hefty sum per capita.

In January, we learned that German’s figure was probably low — very, very low — given that an international report put the total amount laundered at more than 1 billion Canadian dollars per year. (The Canadian government knew this, evidently, but didn’t share with British Columbia in the summer.) The new report also includes details about sources of gangsterism not found in the German report. Now, British Columbia is undertaking two parallel processes to better understand what’s happening: a second German report, this time focused on real estate, horse racing and luxury vehicles, and a Department of Finance review.

All of that is perfectly fine — and perfectly inadequate.

Wise and wily governments survive in the long run because they can anticipate and manage crises. Journalist John Ibbitson calls it the “Rhodes Maxim,” citing Paul Rhodes, a former Progressive Conservative press secretary in Ontario, who once told him that the government he served handled controversies by asking itself “How will this end?” and then going there. Smart.

The maxim comes to mind today, with demands in British Columbia for a public inquiry into money laundering in the style of Quebec’s 2011 Charbonneau Commission, which probed public works corruption. That commission’s findings led to millions of dollars in fines, the resignation of politicians and a handful of high-profile arrests — alongside 60 reform recommendations. British Columbia’s largest union, the Government and Service Employees’ Union, is leading the call for a deep dive into the dark cave of misdeeds that hide links to fentanyl trafficking, out-of-control real estate prices and, almost surely, corrupt, complicit and incompetent public officials past and present.

As public pressure mounts on the government to launch an inquiry, the city of Vancouver — a central site for money laundering — has joined the call, as has Richmond, B.C., and the province’s capital city, VictoriaSo has the B.C. Green Party, whose support is critical for the government in the legislature. British Columbians already overwhelmingly support the idea, with 76 percent in favor and 73 percent expecting that an inquiry would expose the truth about what’s been going on in the province’s shadows for all these years — and what it has cost British Columbia in dollars, reputation (the scheme has become known as the Vancouver model), real estate prices, cost-of-living challenges and even lives (money laundering is linked to fentanyl trafficking, which has killed thousands in the province since 2012).

The entire thing is an emergency. Recently, a federal case — known as the E-Pirate investigation — related to money laundering in British Columbia resulted in stayed charges when the RCMP botched the case by exposing the identity of an informant. The investigation reads like something out of a crime novel. As investigative journalist Sam Cooper, perhaps the top journalist on this file, summarized it, “The E-Pirate investigation found loan sharks allegedly connected to drug-traffickers in China used legal and illegal Metro Vancouver casinos to wash drug cash, helping ultrawealthy high-rollers from China buy Vancouver real estate, and fund fentanyl imports into Canada.”

The truth must come out. And it looks like there’s lots to out.

So far, B.C. Premier John Horgan has been noncommittal and prone to temporizing. That’s unwise. He cites cost, time and existing fact-finding efforts as reasons to wait, as well as concerns that such an inquiry could interfere with developing prosecution efforts.

Please. A wide-ranging, long-term commission is critical to exposing the truth and rooting out corruption in the province. And it’s well worth the money (as a member of the Charbonneau Commission has said) — it might even pay for itself in fines and funds saved through reforms. Moreover, findings from a commission, which can compel witnesses to appear before it and require them to testify under oath, can be used in prosecutions. Meanwhile, every day without an inquiry is an extra day for thugs and crooks to get away with illicit acts that harm citizens and residents of the province.

The public is tired of waiting and already deeply suspicious of the province after years of inadequately addressing money laundering and its attendant issues under the previous government. Now, Canada and the world are watching and waiting. The premier and cabinet ought to recognize this fact now and follow the Rhodes Maxim by starting out where this issue will inevitably end and saving everyone the time, energy and frustration from the political posturing that will precede an eventual capitulation.

The province, first under the Liberals and now the New Democrats, has already wasted too much time waiting to get serious about organized crime. The delay is undermining governance in the province and destroying the lives of innocent people. Everyone knows what the right thing to do is. All that’s left is to do is get to it.

Crypto Money Laundering Cases in Japan Dramatically Shoots Up 10-Fold

By Yashu Gola

Suspicious financial transactions filed by Japan-based cryptocurrency exchanges increased ten times over the previous year, according to the National Police Agency.

The central enforcement body said Feb 28 that 7,096 out of the total 417,465 suspected money laundering cases mentioned the use of cryptocurrencies in 2018. In the period between April and December 2017, the agency had reported 669 of such cases, after it became compulsory for crypto services to report suspicious dirty money transactions under an amended ‘Law for Prevention of Transfer of Criminal Proceeds.’

ORGANIZED CRIME, DRUGS PEDDLING, AND WHATNOT

NPA noted that criminals were using a variety of tricks to conceal their identities during a mandatory know-your-customer procedure. In many instances, suspected offenders had different names and birth dates but the same ID photo. In a few cases, users logged into cryptocurrency exchanges from abroad even though they said they were in Japan. The agency also noted that criminals were allegedly using cryptocurrencies to purchase drugs and child pornography from underground online marketplaces.

NPA acknowledged that the number of confirmed money laundering cases in 2018 had touched a high of 511. That marked a 42-percent jump over the previous year. The agency confirmed that in 377 cases, offenders had a definite motive to cover up the proceeds of criminal activities. At the same time, 36 among these cases involved organized crime organizations, a 57-percent increase than in 2017.

Nevertheless, banks, payment firms, and credit card service providers reported more suspicious money laundering transactions than cryptocurrency exchanges in 2018. The NSA noted that banks and other financial institutions had listed 346,014 cases. At the same time, they received reports of 15,114 irregular economic activities from credit card firms.

On the whole, NPA handed 8,259 cases to higher authorities and kept 1,124 cases that involved fraud with itself. It is reportedly investigating the rest of the cases, the outcome of which would take its course of legal action.

TACKING CRYPTO CRIMES

Despite being a crypto frontrunner when it comes to regulation, Japan had suffered a series of significant setbacks. The country’s crypto records are full of crypto thefts already. Atop that, an increase in money laundering crimes prevents their crypto sector from growing to its full potential.

In its response, NPA plans to train technologists in data analysis, and build newer artificial intelligence tools that would detect anomalies in cryptocurrency trading. Per the agency, their new workforce will detect patterns that relate cryptocurrencies with drugs and money laundering crimes.

On the regulatory front, Japan’s financial regulator, the Financial Services Agency, has mounted its surveillance on local cryptocurrency exchanges to prevent crimes related to money laundering and terrorist financing.

Feds accuse three Wyoming restaurants of involvement in drug money laundering scheme

By Shane Sanderson

Three Wyoming restaurants participated in a multistate drug money laundering scheme, authorities allege in a 50-page civil complaint filed Friday in federal court.

The filings state that Mexican fast food restaurants in Colorado and Wyoming — including Rodolfo’s Mexican Grill in Cheyenne, Rolando’s Mexican Grill in Cheyenne and Almanza’s Mexican Food in Laramie — were involved in a scheme to use falsified invoices to transfer hundreds of thousands of dollars in concert with a Colorado Springs food distributor. When law enforcement raided the Colorado Springs facility, they found more than $35,000 cash. No cash registers or prices for food items were found in the facility, according to the filings.

The bank accounts associated with Almanza’s Mexican Food and Rolando’s Mexican Grill were closed before law enforcement began investigating the case, the documents state.

By Monday evening, defense attorneys had not responded to the prosecution’s latest filing, but in earlier filings they largely denied the allegations.

The man who ran the distribution business, which is known as El Potosino Foods, has connections with a Mexican drug cartel, the documents state. The phone number for Jose Aguilar-Martinez, who owns El Potosino, turned up in previous investigations of Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada and Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, although the documents do not specify the investigations or the phone number’s connection to them.

Authorities have said Zambada is a leader of the Sinaloa cartel, which has smuggled billions of dollars worth of cocaine, heroin, meth and marijuana into the United States.

Earlier this month, a jury convicted Guzmán, another Sinaloa cartel leader, of various federal crimes, including engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise, conspiracy to launder drug proceeds and international drug distribution. His lawyers have said he will seek a new trial following a Vice News report alleging juror misconduct during the case.

The allegations implicating one of the Wyoming restaurants were reported by the Star-Tribune in January. The report drew from responses to a sealed civil complaint filed in November.

In their responses, defendants laid out some of the government’s allegations, including that bank accounts belonging to Hilario Montejano-Aleman, the owner of Rodolfo’s Mexican Grill in Cheyenne, were used in drug money laundering.

Rather than filing documents under seal, prosecutors partially redacted, and on Friday filed publicly, their amended complaint. It revealed more details of the case, which does not bring any criminal action against the alleged money launderers. Instead, the filings seek to require the forfeiture of $1.5 million spread across 15 bank accounts and two safe deposit boxes alleged to be used in the scheme.

The bank safe deposit boxes alone contained more than $800,000 linked to drug trafficking, according to the documents. One of those boxes was filled to capacity with hundreds of thousands of dollar bills that investigators say are tied to drug trafficking. A woman accessed the box at a Colorado Springs bank 16 times over the course of nine years. Every time she appeared pregnant. “Or, in retrospect, carrying the cash inside of a false belly,” prosecutors wrote.

Although the allegations span multiple states and businesses, the investigation began in Wyoming.

Law enforcement began investigating the case in Cheyenne in July 2016 after receiving a report of a suspicious vehicle purchase. That purchase was among multiple turned up by investigators in which purchasers put down $10,000 or more in cash, the documents state. Among those vehicles were a 2007 Cadillac Escalade for which a cook at the Laramie restaurant put down $14,000 cash.

The case also has a Casper connection, although the extent of that connection is not clear. According to prosecutors, a phone number associated with Rodolfo’s called a Casper number that the DEA is investigating in a different case.

Swiss pond fishers give new meaning to concept of ‘money laundering’

In a bid to earn a little extra pocket money, three young women in Lucerne decided to fish out coins left in the pond by the city’s famous Lion Monument.

The monument – a tribute to the Swiss Guards killed in 1792 during the French revolution – is a popular tourist sight with many visitors throwing small change into the surrounding pond.

The women expected to come away with just a few coins. Instead, they found around 400 francs the first time they collected the money. This amount then rose to 600 francs on another occasion when they used snorkel masks and plastic bags to collect their spoils, according to regional daily Luzerner Zeitung.

The women separated the money they collected into two boxes – one for foreign currency and one for Swiss francs, which they went on to spend.

But as the coins they retrieved were covered in algae, the fishers were forced to mix them up with other change to make them less conspicuous.

Then the group came up with the novel idea of using vending machines to “wash the money”. They would use as many coins as possible to buy the cheapest possible products and would obtain “laundered” coins as change.

The three women have since given up their fishing trips and have gone on to become teachers, according to Luzerner Zeitung.

Meanwhile, police told the newspaper the practice was not illegal. A spokesperson for the force said anyone who threw money into a pond gave up ownership rights.

The city of Lucerne clears out the Lion Monument twice a year at which point city gardeners collect any coins they find. These are then donated to charity.