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.

 

Phishers Target Anti-Money Laundering Officers at U.S. Credit Unions

By KrebsOnSecurity

A highly targeted, malware-laced phishing campaign landed in the inboxes of multiple credit unions last week. The missives are raising eyebrows because they were sent only to specific anti-money laundering contacts at credit unions, and many credit union sources say they suspect the non-public data may have been somehow obtained from the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), an independent federal agency that insures deposits at federally insured credit unions.

The USA Patriot Act, passed in the wake of the terror attacks of Sept 11, 2001, requires all financial institutions to appoint at least two Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) contacts responsible for reporting suspicious financial transactions that may be associated with money laundering. U.S. credit unions are required to register these BSA officers with the NCUA.

On the morning of Wednesday, Jan. 30, BSA officers at credit unions across the nation began receiving emails spoofed to make it look like they were sent by BSA officers at other credit unions. The missives addressed each contact by name, claimed that a suspicious transfer from one of the recipient credit union’s customers was put on hold for suspected money laundering, and encouraged recipients to open an attached PDF to review the suspect transaction.

The phishing emails contained grammatical errors and were sent from email addresses not tied to the purported sending credit union. It is not clear if any of the BSA officers who received the messages actually clicked on the attachment, although one credit union source reported speaking with a colleague who feared a BSA contact at their institution may have fallen for the ruse.

One source at an association that works with multiple credit unions who spoke with KrebsOnSecurity on condition of anonymity said many credit unions are having trouble imagining another source for the recipient list other than the NCUA.

“I tried to think of any public ways that the scammers might have received a list of BSA officers, but sites like LinkedIn require contact through the site itself,” the source said. “CUNA [the Credit Union National Association] has BSA certification schools, but they certify state examiners and trade association staff (like me), so non-credit union employees that utilize the school should have received these emails if the list came from them. As far as we know, only credit union BSA officers have received the emails. I haven’t seen anyone who received the email say they were not a BSA officer yet.”

“Wonder where they got the list of BSA contacts at all of our credit unions,” said another credit union source. “They sent it to our BSA officer, and [omitted] said they sent it to her BSA officers.” A BSA officer at a different credit union said their IT department had traced the source of the message they received back to Ukraine.

The NCUA has not responded to multiple requests for comment since Monday. The agency’s instructions for mandatory BSA reporting (PDF) state that the NCUA will not release BSA contact information to the public. Officials with CUNA also did not respond to requests for comment.

A notice posted by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) said the bureau was aware of the phishing campaign, and was urging financial institutions to disregard the missives.

The latest scam comes amid a significant rise in successful phishing attacks, according to a non-public alert sent in late January by the U.S. Secret Service to financial institutions nationwide. “The Secret Service is observing a noticeable increase in successful large-scale phishing attacks targeting unsuspecting victims across industry,” the alert warns.

The Secret Service alert reminds readers that we in the United States are entering tax season, which typically brings a large spike in scams designed to siphon personal and financial data. It also includes some helpful reminders, including:

-Never click on links embedded in emails or open any attachments from unknown or suspect fraudulent email accounts.

-Always independently verify any requested information originates from a legitimate source.

-Visit Web sites by entering the domain name yourself (for sensitive sites, preferably by using a bookmark you created previously).

-If you are contacted via phone, hang up, look up the number for the institution at that institution’s Web site, and call back. Do not give out information in an unsolicited phone call.

This is the world’s “money-laundering paradise”

By Kevin Sun

Everything’s bigger in Dubai. Home to the world’s tallest building since 2010, the emirate’s real estate industry could also be one of the world’s largest money laundromats.

Transparency International, the anti-corruption group behind the annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), has now joined the chorus of voices decrying the city-state’s weak regulations and lax enforcement, according to Forbes.

With the release of its latest CPI results, Transparency International singled out Dubai for special attention in its summary for the Middle East region, citing investigations from the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project and the Washington-based Center for Advanced Defense Studies.

“Dubai has become a money laundering paradise, where the corrupt and other criminals can go to buy luxurious property with no restrictions,” said the report.

The United Arab Emirates, of which Dubai is the largest city and second-largest state, was ranked as the “least corrupt” country in the Middle East and Northern Africa, mainly because of efficient public administration and a high level of human development. Other countries in the region, like war-torn Syria, Yemen and Libya, were at the bottom of the worldwide CPI rankings.

Of course, Dubai is far from the only global city where real estate has become a conduit for dirty money. Malaysia’s infamous 1MDB scandalinvolved a number of NYC properties, and efforts to improve transparency in the U.S. have been stymied by political infighting.

Transparency International also notes that the CPI does not really measure money laundering. Denmark, the “least corrupt” country in this year’s rankings, has been rocked by a scandal involving its largest lender, Danske Bank, which is accused of knowingly allowed the laundering of hundreds of billions of dollars through a branch in Estonia.

A New Business Internet Scam Puts Companies in Legal Hot Water

By Erick Sherman

Criminals are trying to turn companies into money mules, according to the FBI.

Under the scam, criminals with illegally gained money—often through other Internet frauds—get a company to receive cash and then forward it to an account in another country. The intent is to get around official scrutiny of financial transactions.

Money mule schemes themselves aren’t new. In the past they targeted consumers, some of whom were aware of the schemes and others taken in by a con artist. The criminals often disguised themselves as work-from-home opportunities, according to the U.S. Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT), although another popular approach was romantic interaction that starts on a dating site.

Now companies are targets, according to the Associated Press. One executive in Connecticut received an email from someone who seemed to be the small business’s owner requesting a money transfer. It was really a money mule plot targeting companies, schools, and non-profits.

“They trial and error this stuff and they see what works and they see what doesn’t,” FBI supervisory special agent James Abbott told AP.

Not only will money mule scammers try what seem to be legitimate requests, but also might try attacking computer systems for covert access to bank details.

The Department of Justice began to more heavily target money mule scams starting October 1, the agency said in a press release. It has worked to stop 400 money mules in 65 federal districts.

Potential consequences for being a money mule include frozen bank accounts, prosecution, and liability for others’ losses. The consequences can be serious, so companies should be on guard. CERT suggests companies use anti-virus and anti-spyware, limit access to sensitive data, regularly check employee lists and financial transactions, and consider isolating computers that perform banking functions from other systems.

FBI warns of money laundering scams using ‘money mules’

By Eric Tucker & Michael Balsamo

WASHINGTON — The email caught the executive at a small Connecticut company by surprise one morning in 2016. The company’s owner, or so he thought, was requesting a money transfer to pay for supplies from a new vendor.

It wasn’t until that night when the executive, hours after the money had been wired and still puzzled by the out-of-the-blue demand, texted the owner to make sure he’d heard the request correctly.

The befuddled reply was disheartening: “I just saw your message about a wire transfer today. What is this about?”

It was a fraud scam that targeted companies in Connecticut and elsewhere in the United States and that resulted this month in a 45-month prison sentence for one of the culprits. The case is part of a seemingly endless cycle of money laundering schemes that law enforcement officials say they’re scrambling to slow through a combination of prosecution and public awareness. Beyond the run-of-the-mill plots, officials say, is a particularly concerning trend involving “money mules” — people who, unwittingly or not, use their own bank accounts to move money for criminals for purposes they think are legitimate or even noble.

The “mule” concept has attracted renewed attention with this month’s release of Clint Eastwood’s “The Mule,” a real-life tale of an elderly horticulturist who smuggled cocaine for a Mexican cartel. But the modern-day mules of most concern to the FBI are people who get themselves entangled in complicated, international money laundering schemes that cause millions of dollars in losses and show no signs of stopping.

“They trial and error this stuff and they see what works and they see what doesn’t,” FBI supervisory special agent James Abbott said in an interview. “It’s a much higher success rate when you have a lot of money using somebody else’s account going through there instead of trying to cross the border with a physical transportation of cash.”

The FBI and international law enforcement agencies have stepped up efforts against the fraud and say they’re building bigger cases than before. Europol said this month it had identified 1,504 money mules, arresting 168, in a continent-wide bust. The FBI in June announced the arrests of 74 people, including 29 in Nigeria, for schemes targeting businesses and the elderly, and this month launched a publicity campaign called “Don’t Be a Mule.”

The money mule cases are an offshoot of more generic frauds encountered by the FBI, including schemes that dupe people into thinking they’ve won the lottery and can claim their prizes by wiring an advance payment, or that trick the unsuspecting into believing a relative has been arrested and needs urgent bail money or that a supposed paramour they’ve met online requires cash. In cases like the Connecticut one, fraudsters assume identities of executives and scam employees into wiring cash.

That’s what happened in 2016 at Beacon Systems, a Texas company where a new employee received an email from someone she thought was the chief executive officer instructing her to transfer nearly $100,000 for a vendor-related payment. Several weeks later, Kerry Williams, the CEO whose identity was impersonated, was on her way to the airport when an FBI official contacted her and explained how the company had been victimized as part of a much broader swindle. A dual Nigerian-U.S. citizen was ultimately sentenced to four years in prison in connection with the scheme.

“It makes you kind of paranoid,” Williams said, describing how the experience made the SAP consulting firm more vigilant. “Even to this day, we’re overly cautious about everything. I think you kind of go to that extreme.”

As for money mules, they’re persuaded, sometimes with the incentive of keeping a cut of the funds, into allowing money transfers to their own bank accounts at the direction of a fraudster they may mistake for an online friend or romantic partner, a military officer overseas or an employer. They’re then instructed to transfer those funds elsewhere, into accounts controlled by criminals.

In one case, the FBI says, a fraudster posing as an Army captain stationed overseas recruited a man he met online to be a money mule, saying he was making arrangements to travel home and needed the man’s help receiving and sending some funds. The FBI says $10,000 was wired into the man’s account. He was instructed to withdraw it in small increments and send it to someone else in Texas.

The mules are sometimes witting conspirators. Other times, they’re often elderly, lonely or confused. In those cases, they’re questioned by the FBI and given warnings but generally avoid prosecution. The FBI says it’s interviewed more than 300 people suspected of acting as money mules.

“When we approach them and talk to them and explain to them what they’ve been doing, a lot of times, the horror is there, said Steven D’Antuono, an FBI section chief specializing in financial crimes. “It’s all walks of life, all educational levels. Anyone can fall victim to this.”

In the Connecticut case, the executive explained those horrors in a letter to the judge before the sentencing this month of the defendant, Adeyemi Odufuye.

The executive, whose name and company are redacted in the letter, described feeling initially apprehensive about the money transfer instructions and advising the company owner that it was a “lot of money for supplies.”

That night, he described the interactions to his wife, who asked if he was really certain the emails were legitimate. He suddenly wasn’t so sure, realizing for the first time he may have been duped.

“Because of crimes like these,” he wrote, “our society is losing much of the trust and openness that we once experienced.”

Money laundering scandal involving people on both sides of jail

By Sarah Horne

Money laundering can land you in jail, but nine individuals used the jail itself as the setting for a fraudulent money scheme, officials said.

The scam allegedly involved nine men who are now all facing money laundering and telecommunications fraud charges. They are Parisian Fitzhugh, Georvaughn Campbell, Charles Harrell, Demontez Harrison, Dyerico Johnson, Dominic Lindsey, Jerome McCoy, Cortez Reed and Eric Sanks.

According to prosecutors, the scheme would start with a person using a bad credit card to transfer funds into an inmate’s account.

Then the inmate would ask someone at the justice center to send the money in his account to a friend or family member, officials said.

Finally, investigators said an employee at the jail would write a check to someone on the outside.

The banks connected to the credit cards lost about $4,000 were lost throughout this process, officials said.

Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Lt. David Daugherty said this case is the first of its kind for the county.

The case has been under investigation for about two years, he said, and it has resulted in changes to how money is processed from inside to outside the jail.

Before inmates could transfer up to $500 out of the jail at once, Daugherty said. Now, the amount is up to $250.

He said now there is more internal and external vetting and credit cards are checked for clearance before transactions are made. Inmates are also restricted to one transaction per month, Daugherty said.

One of the nine defendants is already being held at the Hamilton County Justice Center. Trials in the case have not yet been scheduled.

Tampa woman faces 20 years in prison for money laundering scheme

By Crystal Owens

A Tampa woman is facing 20 years in federal prison after she pleaded guilty Monday to conspiracy to commit money laundering.

As part of a plea agreement with federal prosecutors, Brenda Dozier, 54, agreed to pay approximately $225,000 in restitution to the victims of the money laundering conspiracy and to a forfeiture money judgment in the same amount.

A sentencing date has not been set.

Dozier laundered money from July 2015 through at least November 2015 that had been extorted from residents by conspirators residing in the states and overseas, according to U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez.

Her India-based conspirators extorted money by impersonating IRS officers and misleading victims to believe that they owed money and would be arrested and fined if they didn’t immediately pay their alleged back taxes. As part of the conspiracy, Dozier opened bank accounts, which she used to receive the fraud proceeds, typically via interstate wire transfers, according to U.S. Middle District of Florida court records. Once Dozier had retrieved the funds, she provided the money to her co-conspirators. Dozier was paid for opening the accounts and conducting the transactions.

Three of her co-conspirators, Nishitkumar PatelHemalkumar Shah and Sharvil Patel, were charged on Oct. 11 in a related case with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and extortion, and with individual counts alleging wire fraud, extortion, money laundering and aggravated identity theft for their roles in the scheme.

Their trials are scheduled to begin in April 2019 in U.S. Middle District Court in Tampa.

The case was investigated by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, the IRS–Criminal Investigation, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Tampa Police Department. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Rachel K. Jones.

Texas Trio accused of Money Laundering, ID Theft

By Nicholas Davis

WICHITA FALLS, TX (RNN Texoma) – Wichita County Sheriff Deputies say they have arrested three men after a traffic stop unveiled more than $75,000 in cash and “hundreds of names, credit card numbers, pin numbers and zip codes.”

According to a press release, a Highway Interdiction Deputy made a traffic stop on U.S. 287 near Electra at around 1:45 Monday afternoon.

The occupants consented to a search of the car.

During the search, the deputy discovered $75,215 cash, gift cards not under the names of the driver or passengers, and two flash drives containing names, credit card numbers and more.

The driver, 34 year old Osniel Ramirez along with two passengers have been arrested.

The Passengers have been identified as 25 year old Disney Avila and 27 year old Miguel Aguiler.

All three man face charges of Fraudulent Use/Possession of Identifying Information and Money Laundering.

All three men were under investigation by the Amarillo Police Department regarding a large number of identity theft cases that occurred in that city.

Mayfair Fine Art administrators struggle to trace paintings linked to money-laundering scandal

By Kabir Jhala

Administrators cannot locate two paintings supposedly belonging to Mayfair Fine Art Limited, whose former director Matthew Green is being charged with attempted money laundering following the scandal involving the city stockbroker Beaufort Securities earlier this year.

In a progress report, Kingston Smith & Partners, the corporate recovery and insolvency firm who have been administering Mayfair Fine Art following its bankruptcy in March, claim that the two paintings allegedly purchased from a third party cannot be found.

The contact information provided by Mayfair Fine Art, which states that the works were purchased by an “associated company” and were “apparently held in Dubai”, was found to be insufficient in ascertaining the ownership, location or existence of the artworks. A source at Kingston Smith has declined to share further details of the works in question.

The report also reveals that MBU Capital Limited, the secured creditor who called time on an overdue loan and initiated the administration of Mayfair Fine Art, is still owed an estimated £520,000 to be paid from the company’s assets. Kingston Smith & Partners are continuing to enquire into the full extent of the company’s assets and transactions, including examining the company’s historic bank transactions in order to reach a fair settlement.

In March, Green was charged with conspiring with Panayiotis “Peter” Kyriacou, an investment manager at Beaufort’s London office, and his uncle Aristos Aristodemou to “clean up” £6.7m through the attempted sale of a Picasso painting to an undercover FBI agent.

The ensuing multi-court indictment by US federal court has seen six individuals and four companies charged with an array of crimes relating to money laundering and conspiracy.

Of the six individuals charged, two defendants have since pleaded guilty. Arvinsingh Canaye, who ran the Mauritius branch of Beaufort Management, pled guilty to charges of conspiracy to launder money in August and Adrian Baron, the chief business officer of Loyal Bank pled guilty to conspiracy to defraud the US in September.

Green, 51, who left his directorial roles at his family’s company Richard Green & Sons Limited in 2012, is among the four remaining defendants who have yet to plead.

https://www.theartnewspaper.com/news/administrators-struggle-to-trace-paintings-linked-to-money-laundering-scandal

Bitcoin [BTC] worth $5.84 million stolen from MapleChange; Binance CEO gives his insight

MapleChange, a Canada-based cryptocurrency exchange, recently announced that their platform was hacked. The exchange platform took to their Twitter handle to provide clarity on the situation, stating that they could not refund the stolen cryptocurrencies.

According to their official post, a bug on the platform enabled a group of hackers to withdraw funds remotely. The platform reported that 913 Bitcoins [BTC] were stolen and that they cannot refund any of the funds until a “thorough investigation” was conducted.

Another controversial aspect was that the “thorough investigation” resulted in the exchange platform realizing that they did not have funds for repaying its users. Furthermore, they stated that the platform would not function anymore and that they would soon deactivate their social media channels. Their official post stated:

“We have sustained a hack, and we are investigating the issue.”

On their official Twitter handle, the exchange stated that they had not “disappeared”, but had temporarily turned off their accounts to think of a solution.

In addition, they could not refund “everyone with all their funds”, but would soon open wallets in order to allow its users to “hopefully” withdraw whatever funds were left on the exchange. They added:

“We CANNOT refund any BTC or LTC funds unfortunately. We will try our best to refund everything else.”

Changpeng Zhao, the CEO of Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange in terms of trading volume, was surprised by the hack and stated that a procedure was required to rank exchanges based on their wallet storage. He added that users had to avoid using exchange platforms which did not have anything in their cold wallets.

Maplechange’ed, a platform dedicated to find, take down and expose maplechange.com, with the help of members from the Lumeneo [LMO] telegram channel, allegedly found that Glad Poenaru, a service technician at American Piledriving Equipment, could have been responsible for the hack.

Joseph Young, a cryptocurrency investor and analyst, stated:

“A small crypto exchange pulled off an exit scam, taking all customer funds. There is no incentive for using small exchanges. Use established exchanges that are regulated, & transparent. Small exchanges also focus on maximizing profitability, not security or investor protection.”

MapleChange further added:

“We are sending all of the coin developers the wallets containing the coins we have left. So far, LMO and CCX have been handed over the funds.”

https://ambcrypto.com/bitcoin-btc-worth-5-84-million-stolen-from-maplechange-binance-ceo-gives-his-insight/