“Government self-interest corrupted a crime-fighting tool into an evil”

September 23, 2014

The Washington Post on September 18, 2014 released the following:

“By John Yoder and Brad Cates

John Yoder was director of the Justice Department’s Asset Forfeiture Office from 1983 to 1985. Brad Cates was the director of the office from 1985 to 1989.

Last week, The Post published a series of in-depth articles about the abuses spawned by the law enforcement practice known as civil asset forfeiture. As two people who were heavily involved in the creation of the asset forfeiture initiative at the Justice Department in the 1980s, we find it particularly painful to watch as the heavy hand of government goes amok. The program began with good intentions but now, having failed in both purpose and execution, it should be abolished.

Asset forfeiture was conceived as a way to cut into the profit motive that fueled rampant drug trafficking by cartels and other criminal enterprises, in order to fight the social evils of drug dealing and abuse. Over time, however, the tactic has turned into an evil itself, with the corruption it engendered among government and law enforcement coming to clearly outweigh any benefits.

The idea seemed so simple: Seize the ill-gotten gains of big-time drug dealers and remove the financial incentive for their criminality. After all, if a kingpin could earn $20 million and stash it away somewhere, even a decade in prison would have its rewards. Make that money disappear, and the calculus changes.

Then, in 1986, the concept was expanded to include not only cash earned illegally but also purchases or investments made with that money, creating a whole scheme of new crimes that could be prosecuted as “money laundering.” The property eligible for seizure was further expanded to include “instrumentalities” in the trafficking of drugs, such as cars or even jewelry. Eventually, more than 200 crimes beyond drugs came to be included in the forfeiture scheme.

This all may have been fine in theory, but in the real world it went badly astray. First, many states adopted their own forfeiture laws, creating programs with less monitoring than those at the federal level. Second, state law enforcement agencies and prosecutors started using the property — and finally even to provide basic funding for their departments.

Even at the outset, the use of seized property was an issue. Drug Enforcement Administration agents, for example, might see a suspected dealer in a car they wanted for undercover work and seize it. But if the car had an outstanding loan, the DEA could not keep it without paying the lien. This led to distorted enforcement decisions, with agents choosing whom to pursue based on irrelevant factors such as whether the target owed money on his car.

As time went on and states got into the forfeiture game, the uses became more personally rewarding for law enforcement. Maintaining an undercover identity was often no longer even part of the justification for seizures.

Law enforcement agents and prosecutors began using seized cash and property to fund their operations, supplanting general tax revenue, and this led to the most extreme abuses: law enforcement efforts based upon what cash and property they could seize to fund themselves, rather than on an even-handed effort to enforce the law.

Many Americans are familiar with old-time speed traps, which became so notorious that most state legislatures reformed their systems to require local police and courts to deposit traffic fines into the state treasury to avoid the appearance of biased justice. Today, the old speed traps have all too often been replaced by forfeiture traps, where local police stop cars and seize cash and property to pay for local law enforcement efforts. This is a complete corruption of the process, and it unsurprisingly has led to widespread abuses.

The Asset Forfeiture Reform Act was enacted in 2000 to rein in abuses, but virtually nothing has changed. This is because civil forfeiture is fundamentally at odds with our judicial system and notions of fairness. It is unreformable.

In America, it is often said that it is better that nine guilty people go free than one innocent person be wrongly convicted. But our forfeiture laws turn our traditional concept of guilt upside down. Civil forfeiture laws presume someone’s personal property to be tainted, placing the burden of proving it “innocent” on the owner. What of the Fourth Amendment requirement that a warrant to seize or search requires the showing of probable cause of a specific violation?

Defendants should be charged with the crimes they commit. Charge someone with drug dealing if it can be proved, but don’t invent a second offense of “money laundering” to use as a backup or a pretext to seize cash. Valid, time-tested methods exist to allow law enforcement to seize contraband, profits and instrumentalities via legitimate criminal prosecution.

Civil asset forfeiture and money-laundering laws are gross perversions of the status of government amid a free citizenry. The individual is the font of sovereignty in our constitutional republic, and it is unacceptable that a citizen should have to “prove” anything to the government. If the government has probable cause of a violation of law, then let a warrant be issued. And if the government has proof beyond a reasonable doubt of guilt, let that guilt be proclaimed by 12 peers.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

Federal Mail Fraud Crimes

Federal Crimes – Appeal

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


“End Of The Silk Road: FBI Says It’s Busted The Web’s Biggest Anonymous Drug Black Market”

October 3, 2013
Ross William Ulbricht
“Ross William Ulbricht, alleged to be the “Dread Pirate Roberts” behind Silk Road’s drug black market.”

Forbes on October 2, 2013 released the following:

By: Andy Greenberg, Forbes Staff

“After two and a half years running the booming anonymous narcotics bazaar known as the Silk Road, the drug kingpin who called himself the Dread Pirate Roberts has allegedly been unmasked.

On Wednesday, the FBI announced that they arrested 29-year-old Ross William Ulbricht, the Silk Road’s accused administrator, in the Glen Park branch of the San Francisco Public Library at 3:15 Pacific time on Tuesday. Ulbricht has been charged with engaging in a money laundering and narcotics trafficking conspiracy as well as computer hacking. The Department of Justice has seized the website of the Silk Road’s as well as somewhere between $3.5 to 4 million in bitcoins, the cryptographic currency used to buy drugs on the Silk Road.

Earlier this summer, the Silk Road’s administrator calling himself by the Dread Pirate Roberts pseudonym gave his first extended interview to Forbes over the same Tor anonymity network that has hosted the Silk Road and its users since the site’s creation in early 2011.

Forbes estimated at the time that the Silk Road was earning between $30 and $45 million in annual revenue. In fact, the number may have been far larger: The criminal complaint against Ulbricht states that the Silk Road turned over $1.2 billion in revenue since its creation, and generated $80 million commissions for its operator or operators.

“This is supposed to be some invisible black market bazaar. We made it visible,” says an FBI spokesperson, who asked not to be named. “When you interviewed [Ulbricht], he said he would never be arrested. But no one is beyond the reach of the FBI. We will find you.”

The FBI hasn’t yet revealed how it managed to track down Ulbricht in spite of his seemingly careful use of encryption and anonymity tools to protect his identity and those of his customers and vendors who visited Silk Road as often as 60,000 times per day. The FBI spokesperson declined to offer details about the investigation, but told me that “basically he made a simple mistake and we were able to identify him.”

One clue mentioned in the criminal complaint against Ulbricht was a package seized from the mail by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol as it crossed the Canadian border, containing nine seemingly counterfeit identification documents, each of which used a different name but featured Ulbricht’s photograph. The address on the package was on 15th street in San Francisco, where police found Ulbricht and matched his face to the one on the fake IDs.

The complaint also mentions security mistakes, including an IP address for a VPN server used by Ulbricht listed in the code on the Silk Road, mentions of time in the Dread Pirate Roberts’ posts on the site that identified his time zone, and postings on the Bitcoin Talk forum under the handle “altoid,” which was tied to Ulbricht’s Gmail address.

In his conversation with me, which took place on July 4th, the Silk Road administrator calling himself the Dread Pirate Roberts espoused Libertarian ideals and claimed that the use of Bitcoin in combination with Tor had stymied law enforcement and “won the State’s War on Drugs.”

He also said he intended to bring his marketplace into mainstream awareness, and had recently launched the first non-Tor website for the Silk Road known as SilkRoadlink, which remains online. “Up until now I’ve done my best to keep Silk Road as low profile as possible … letting people discover [it] through word of mouth,” Roberts says. “At the same time, Silk Road has been around two and a half years. We’ve withstood a lot, and it’s not like our enemies are unaware any longer.”

One remaining mystery in Ulbricht’s criminal complaint is whether he was in fact the only–or the original–Dread Pirate Roberts. In his July interview with me, Roberts said that he had in fact inherited the Dread Pirate title from the site’s creator, who may have also used the same pseudonym.

As of around noon Wednesday, the Silk Road’s forum for users also remained online, and the site’s loyal users were grieving over the Silk Road takedown and mourning the arrest of Ulbricht, whose apparent persona as the Dread Pirate Roberts was a widely respected figure in the online drug community.

“jesus christ this is TERRIBLE!!” wrote one user named danceandsing. Others suggested that users migrate to other, smaller but similar anonymous black markets such as Black Market Reloaded–another popular alternative to the Silk Road known as Atlantis went offline last week, with its administrators saying only that they shut down the business for “security reasons.”

Another user blamed the Dread Pirate Roberts’ carelessness, including his decision to raise his profile by giving an interview to Forbes. “Sorry, but when he gave the fucking Forbes interview I imagined this would be coming,” wrote a user calling himself Dontek. “Should have kept all this shit on the down low rather than publicly bragging about it.”

Ulbricht’s LinkedIn profile describes his background as a graduate researcher in materials science at Pennsylvania State University, as well as an undergrad degree in physics from the University of Texas at Dallas.

According to Ulbricht’s grandmother, Martha Ulbricht, who was reached by phone, the younger Ulbricht received a full scholarship to UT Dallas. “Ross has always been an upstanding person as far as we know and a rather outstanding person,” she said.

Ulbricht’s half-brother Travis Ulbricht, also reached by phone in Sacramento, described him as an “exceptionally bright, smart kid” who had no criminal history to his knowledge.

Asked what he did for a living before moving to San Francisco, Ulbricht’s grandmother said, “Something on the computer…a little technical for me. He was good with computers.””

Federal Criminal Case 1: New York Federal Criminal Complaint
Northern District of California, Case No.: 3:13-mj-71218-JCS-1 (Proceedings on Out-of-District Criminal Charges Pursuant to Rules 5(c)(2) and (3)) and lists the following case on the docket sheet: Southern District of New York, Case No.: 13-mj-2328

21 U.S.C. 846 – Drug Conspiracy
18 U.S.C. 1030(a)(2) – Computer Hacking Conspiracy
18 U.S.C. 1956(a)(1)(A)(i) and (B)(i) – Money Laundering Conspiracy

Ross William Ulbricht New York Criminal Complaint

Federal Criminal Case 2: Maryland Federal Indictment
District of Maryland, Case No.: 1:13-cr-00222-CCB-1

21 U.S.C. 846 – Conspiracy to Distribute a Controlled Substance
18 U.S.C. 1512(a)(1)(C) – Attempted Witness Murder; 18 U.S.C. 2 – Aiding and Abetting
18 U.S.C. 1958(a) – Use of Interstate Commerce Facilities in Commission of a Murder-for-hire; 18 U.S.C. 2 – Aiding and Abetting

Ross William Ulbricht Maryland Superseding Indictment

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

Federal Mail Fraud Crimes

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


“Prosecutors Expect More Arrests in Art-Fraud Scheme”

August 19, 2013

The New York Times on August 19, 2013 released the following:

By WILLIAM K. RASHBAUM

“Federal prosecutors handling the case against an obscure art dealer charged in one of the most audacious art frauds in recent memory told a judge on Monday that they expected more arrests in the continuing investigation. They also said they expected the case against the art dealer to be resolved soon.

The disclosures came at the arraignment of the dealer, Glafira Rosales, in United States District Court in Manhattan.

Ms. Rosales was arrested on money laundering and tax charges in connection with the scheme in May. She was arraigned Monday before Judge Katherine P. Failla on new charges contained in a superseding indictment that was handed up last week by a grand jury. She pleaded not guilty during the five-minute proceeding.

During the arraignment, Judge Failla asked one of the prosecutors, Jason P. Hernandez, an assistant United States attorney, if more arrests were expected.

“Yes,” he said.

Mr. Hernandez also said that the case against Ms. Rosales, which was the result of a lengthy F.B.I. investigation, was to be resolved in the coming weeks. He did not elaborate.

A lawyer for Ms. Rosales, Steven R. Kartagener, declined to comment on the new charges.

The charges issued last week revealed for the first time that all of the 63 phony art works at the heart of what prosecutors have described as a sweeping fraud scheme stretching over more than a decade were created by a single painter. The indictment identified him only as a painter who lives in Queens and said he had produced the canvases — purported to be by the hands of Modernist masters like Willem de Koonig, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Robert Motherwell and others — in his house and garage.

People briefed on the matter said he was Pei-Shen Qian, a struggling 73-year-old Chinese artist who came to the United States in 1981.

While he was paid a few thousand dollars for the canvases, they were later sold as works by Modernist masters for more than $80 million.

The indictment and other court papers said the painter who created the fake canvases was discovered selling his own art on the streets of Lower Manhattan in the early 1990s by Ms. Rosales’s boyfriend and business partner, an art dealer named Jose Carlos Bergantiños Diaz, who recruited him to make paintings in the style of celebrated Abstract Expressionists. The indictment does not name Mr. Bergantiños Diaz, but his identity is confirmed by other court records.

It is unclear whether Ms. Rosales has begun cooperating with the federal authorities since her arrest in May. But while the prosecutors handling her case initially argued then that she posed “a substantial flight risk” and that no bail conditions could assure her return to court, convincing a judge to detain her without bail, last week, after the new indictment was handed up, the prosecutors did not oppose her release on a $2.5 million bond.

Julie Bolcer, a spokeswoman for the office of Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan, and an F.B.I. spokesman, James M. Margolin, declined to comment. Mr. Kartagener has refused to characterize his discussions with the prosecutors on the case, Mr. Hernandez and Daniel W. Levy.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Lee Police Chief Federally Indicted for Alleged Extortion and Money Laundering

August 9, 2013

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on August 8, 2013 released the following:

“Alleged Activity Includes Coercing Payment from Individuals Facing Prostitution Charges and Diverting Money Through Children’s Toy Fund

BOSTON—A federal grand jury in Springfield returned an indictment today against Lee Police Chief Joseph Buffis for extortion and three counts of money laundering.

It is alleged that in February 2012 Buffis, 55, of Pittsfield, acting in his official capacity as Lee Police Department chief, extorted a $4,000 “donation” from two individuals who were facing prostitution-related charges. The “donation” was made payable to the Edward J. Laliberte Toy Fund, a holiday toy fund that Buffis controlled. Buffis deposited the $4,000 check into the Toy Fund’s bank account and quickly withdrew $3,990, which he then deposited into a joint bank account that he operated with his wife. The diverted money was then used to pay for various personal expenses. Buffis is alleged to have lied to law enforcement about the disposition of the funds.

“To be entrusted to serve and protect is a great honor and privilege. The alleged actions of Chief Buffis disgrace the many incredible law enforcement stewards who uphold and enforce the law. Actions like these threaten the credibility of our justice system, and we will not stand idly by and allow the trust of our communities to be violated,” said United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz.

Berkshire District Attorney David F. Capeless said, “The allegations contained in the federal indictment describe a serious breach of the public trust, and my office will continue to work with United States Attorney Ortiz and her office to see that justice is done and order restored. It should be made clear that these accusations are made against one man, Joseph Buffis, not the Lee Police Department or any other members of its force. My office will continue to work proudly alongside the Lee Police Department to ensure safety and justice in the town of Lee and throughout Berkshire County.”

“This is another example of a successful investigation and extraordinary teamwork between the FBI, the Massachusetts State Police, the United States Attorney’s Office, and the Berkshire District Attorney’s Office. The conduct charged in this indictment demonstrates law enforcement’s commitment to pursue public corruption at any level. We will not tolerate these acts, especially from those who have sworn to serve and protect the community and its citizens,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Vincent B. Lisi.

If convicted, Buffis faces a maximum of 20 years in prison on each of the counts followed by five years of supervised release, and $250,000 fine. Buffis will be summoned to appear in court for his initial appearance.

U.S. Attorney Ortiz; District Attorney Capeless; FBI Special Agent in Charge Lisi; and Colonel Timothy P. Alben, Superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police, made the announcement today. The U.S. Attorney’s Office would like to thank District Attorney Capeless and the Massachusetts State Police Berkshire Detective Unit for uncovering the alleged violations and initiating the investigation which led to today’s indictment.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven H. Breslow of Ortiz’s Springfield Branch Office.

We are seeking the public’s assistance in this case. For those who have donated cash or toys to the Edward J. Lalilberte Toy Fund or for those who have applied to the Edward J. Laliberte Toy Fund, please contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Springfield Resident Agency, at (413) 732-0159. Please contact the FBI if you have any information, questions, or concerns regarding this matter.

The details contained in the indictment are allegations. The defendant is presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

Federal Mail Fraud Crimes

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Florida Attorney Charged with Allegedly Laundering Purported Stock Fraud Proceeds

July 11, 2013

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on July 10, 2013 released the following:

Michael Scaglione, Esq. Laundered More Than $750,000, was Placed Under Arrest After Accepting an Additional $500,000 in Cash to Launder

BROOKLYN, NY— Michael J. Scaglione, Esq., 41, an attorney in Coral Gables, Florida, was arrested this morning on charges that he laundered more than $750,000, which he believed were proceeds from a penny stock fraud scheme. The money was, in fact, provided to Scaglione by an undercover law enforcement agent who posed as a criminal stock promoter as part of a sting operation. Scaglione, who is a partner at Scaglione Law Firm P.A. in Coral Gables, Florida, was arrested after he took possession of an additional $500,000 in cash that he agreed to launder.

The charges were announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; George Venizelos, Assistant Director in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI); and Toni Weirauch, Special Agent in Charge, United States Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, New York (IRS).

According to the complaint unsealed this morning in the Eastern District of New York, Scaglione exploited his position as an attorney to launder money through an escrow account for an undercover law enforcement agent (“undercover agent”) who posed as a corrupt stock promoter. In his dealings with Scaglione, the undercover agent represented himself to be a middleman working with corrupt stock brokers who artificially inflated prices for worthless stock in exchange for high commissions. Scaglione agreed to launder what he believed were proceeds of this stock fraud through his attorney escrow account in order to hide that money from the United States Securities and Exchange Commission and the IRS. Scaglione then funneled over $750,000, including $88,000 in cash given to him in a Federal Express box in the lobby of a Miami Beach hotel, through the escrow account into the undercover agent’s bank account in Long Island, New York. Scaglione carefully structured the movement of these funds to avoid triggering financial reporting requirements. In exchange, Scaglione collected over $25,000 in fees. In recorded conversations, Scaglione assured the undercover agent that their conversations were “completely privileged” and that his money was “safe” with Scaglione. When the undercover agent explained to Scaglione that he did not “want to go to jail,” Scaglione stated to the undercover agent that the escrow account was “tight as can be.” Directly prior to his arrest this morning, at a hotel in Miami Beach, Florida, Scaglione accepted an additional $500,000 in cash from the undercover agent, which Scaglione believed to be proceeds from the penny stock fraud.

“As alleged in the complaint, Scaglione hid behind his license to practice law as he threw himself into the purported scheme to launder money. In so doing, he crossed the line from attorney to defendant,” stated United States Attorney Lynch. “I would like to thank our partners at the FBI and the IRS for their swift action and effective work on this important investigation.”

FBI Assistant Director in Charge Venizelos stated, “As alleged, the defendant breached the code of ethics for his profession and flagrantly broke the law, in laundering what he believed to be the proceeds of criminal activity. Contrary to the counsel he gave, the attorney-client privilege is not a veil of secrecy to hide criminal conduct.”

IRS Special Agent in Charge Weirauch stated, “Criminal attempts to conceal reportable financial transactions from government agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service and the Securities and Exchange Commission, may appear to be victimless crimes to some. However, they erode our nation’s financial systems and ultimately harm the American public. In particular, the laundering of proceeds from illegitimate activities that are nevertheless taxable threatens our voluntary tax compliance system; failure to investigate and prosecute these types of crimes would erode public confidence.”

The defendant is scheduled to appear tomorrow before United States Magistrate Judge Alicia M. Otazo-Reyes at the United States Courthouse in Miami, Florida, for removal proceedings to the Eastern District of New York.

The charges in the complaint are merely allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jacquelyn M. Kasulis.

This case was brought in coordination with President Barack Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. President Obama established the interagency task force to wage an aggressive, coordinated, and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The task force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general, and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch and, with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets, and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes.

Defendant:

Michael J. Scaglione
Age: 41
Miami Springs, Florida”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

Federal Mail Fraud Crimes

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


“US Supreme Court to consider Florida couple’s fight to use frozen assets for criminal defense”

July 1, 2013

The Washington Post on June 30, 2013 released the following:

“By Associated Press, Published: June 30

MIAMI — When Kerri and Brian Kaley came under federal investigation for allegedly stealing medical devices, they took out a $500,000 line of credit on their New York house to hire lawyers. Yet after their indictment in 2007, prosecutors sought to prevent the Kaleys from using the money because the government intended to seize the house.

The Kaleys insisted they were legally reselling the medical items. At the very least, they wanted a hearing to determine whether the government’s case was strong enough to justify freezing most of their assets and denying them the right to hire the attorney of their choice.

It’s an issue federal courts around the country are deeply divided over. Now, the U.S. Supreme Court has a chance to settle the matter after agreeing earlier this year to hear the Kaleys’ appeal.

The case involves both the Fifth Amendment’s due process clause and the Sixth Amendment’s right to counsel, and could potentially affect thousands of cases each year in which the Justice Department seeks to seize defendants’ property. Such cases typically range from alleged drug dealers and Mafia figures to Ponzi schemers and Medicare fraudsters, but also could ensnare people who are wrongly accused.

To property rights advocates, the Kaleys’ case is an opportunity for the court to tip the scales of justice slightly more in the favor of defendants who are routinely deprived of their assets without being convicted. The ruling would not directly impact state courts, which operate under their own forfeiture laws, but lawyers could cite the Supreme Court decision to help a client.

“People who are indicted on criminal charges in the United States are presumed innocent,” said Larry Salzman, an attorney with the Institute for Justice, an Alexandria, Va.-based nonprofit law firm involved in forfeiture and property seizure cases nationwide. “Seizing their assets on the basis of an indictment alone turns the presumption of innocence on its head. It follows the rule of punishment first, evidence later.”

Prosecutors, however, say a grand jury’s decision to bring criminal charges shows the case has enough merit to enable them to freeze assets that may have been obtained through illegal activity.

In fiscal 2012, more than $4.2 billion was deposited in the Justice Department’s asset forfeiture fund. That compares with about $1.6 billion in each of the two previous years.

Prosecutors say adding a hearing to allow a defendant to attack the validity of the grand jury’s indictment would force prosecutors to prematurely lay out their case and might even endanger witnesses.

“No reason exists to think that an extra layer of procedure on that score — one that could be undertaken only at significant cost — would be beneficial, much less that it is constitutionally mandated,” the U.S. solicitor general’s office wrote in Supreme Court papers.

The office, which represents the administration of President Barack Obama before the Supreme Court, also asked the justices to settle the question nationally so there would be a single standard in federal courts.

The Kaleys, who live in Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y., have been battling the government for more than six years. They declined an interview request through their Miami-based attorneys, Howard Srebnick and Richard Strafer.

It all started when the Food and Drug Administration began an investigation in 2005 into what appeared to be a highly lucrative but unregulated market of resale of various medical devices, from hardware to sutures. The probe led investigators to a Delray Beach middleman in South Florida who was buying the devices from the Kaleys and others and then selling them to other medical providers. He did some $10 million in business in one year.

At the time, Kerri Kaley was a sales representative for Ethicon Endosurgery, a subsidiary of medical supplies giant Johnson & Johnson. She and her lawyers insist that she was legally allowed to resell the medical items she was given because Johnson & Johnson would not accept them as returns after a certain date and because hospitals wanted to clear out space for newer products. Hospitals also traded the older items for newer, free devices from the sales force.

Another sales representative, Jennifer Gruenstrass, was charged along with the Kaleys but went to trial separately. She was acquitted in November 2007. Gruenstrass’s assets were not frozen before the trial.

“There is a vibrant trading culture that exists between reps and between hospitals,” Gruenstrass’ attorney Robert Casale said. “Nobody is reporting a theft at any of the hospitals. Nobody at Ethicon is saying, ‘We were missing stuff.’ No theft.”

The prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Watts-Fitzgerald, said there was evidence the Kaleys and Gruenstrass knew what they were doing was illegal. For example, he said, Brian Kaley set up two shell construction businesses that actually acted as only conduits for the checks his wife was getting through the device sales. And, he said, the Kaleys hastily cleaned out their garage of the devices when they were first contacted by the FDA.

“Those were stolen devices,” Watts-Fitzgerald said. “She had no right, title and interest in any of the equipment they were selling.”

Still, the acquittal of Gruenstrass could indicate the Kaleys have a point in questioning the strength of the federal case. What they want from the Supreme Court is a chance to show that weakness to a federal judge so they can win access to the money they need to pay the lawyers they choose.

The $500,000 line of credit the Kaleys took out on their house was based on their lawyers’ estimate of their fees and expenses to take the case all the way through trial.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which handles cases from South Florida, said the Kaleys were only entitled to a hearing on whether their frozen assets were connected to the alleged crimes. Three other circuits have similar standards, while five others do require prosecutors to show at least some evidence of guilt.

The Kaleys face an eight-count indictment on conspiracy, transportation of stolen property, money laundering and obstruction of justice charges that carry maximum combined penalties of 85 years in prison. If convicted, they would likely lose their New York house and the $500,000 line of credit.

“With so much at stake in a criminal case, we believe due process requires a pretrial hearing to determine the propriety of the restraint of assets needed to retain counsel of choice at trial,” said Srebnick, one of the Kaley attorneys.

The criminal prosecution is on hold in federal court in West Palm Beach until the Supreme Court makes its decision. Oral arguments are not expected until October, with a ruling likely in late 2013 or early 2014.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Appeal

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


“With the FBI On Her Trail, Michele Bachmann Raises Money For Non-Existent Reelection Bid”

June 12, 2013

San Francisco Sentinel on June 11, 2013 released the following:

“An FBI investigation into money laundering, wire fraud, and mail fraud has not stopped Rep. Michele Bachmann from continuing to raise money for a reelection campaign that she isn’t running.

According to the University of Minnesota’s Smart Politics blog, Nearly two weeks after announcing she would not seek a 5th term from Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District, Republican Michele Bachmann’s congressional campaign website is still locked and loaded to take in money. The campaign’s donation page is still featured and functional.” The donation page is still claiming that, “Obama and the Democrats are targeting Michele for speaking out against their extreme liberal agenda. They will do, say and spend whatever it takes to defeat her.”

According to David Shuster, the FBI may be in the process of gathering evidence against Bachmann herself, “According to sources close to the criminal investigation of Bachmann’s presidential campaign, the FBI has now been given sworn testimony and documents alleging Bachmann approved secret payments to Iowa state Senator Kent Sorenson in exchange for his help and support in that state’s 2012 Presidential caucuses. Ethics rules explicitly prohibit Iowa lawmakers from accepting payments from Presidential campaigns or PACs. Investigation sources tell Take Action News the FBI is examining money laundering allegations against Bachmann, as well as possible wire fraud and mail fraud.”

If this is the case, it is very clear why Bachmann high tailed it out of the House by announcing her “retirement.”

Usually, it wouldn’t be a big deal for a “retiring” member of Congress to continue to raise a small sum of money before they leave office. However, when the person raising the money is possibly facing mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering charges, it looks pretty bad to have a message up on your website soliciting donations for a reelection campaign that doesn’t exist.

It could be that Team Michele is distracted by other things, like the fact that members of her own presidential campaign team are possibly giving evidence against her to the FBI, or it could just be one of those things that Bachmann just hasn’t gotten around to yet.

When the FBI is investigating you for potential money laundering, it probably isn’t the best idea to be raising money by using a reelection campaign that no longer exists.

It is possible that Bachmann could change her mind and run for reelection, but after her “retirement” announcement the ethical thing to do would have been to change the language of the fundraising pitch on her website.

Then again, a lack of ethics is what got Michele Bachmann into this mess in the first place.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

Federal Mail Fraud Crimes

————————————————————–

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Managing Partner of U.S. Broker-Dealer Charged in Manhattan Federal Court with Allegedly Participating in a Massive International Bribery Scheme

June 12, 2013

The U.S. Department of Justice on June 12, 2013 released the following press release:

Defendant Allegedly Participated in Scheme That Generated Broker-dealer More Than $60 Million in Fees for Business Directed by a Senior Venezuelan Banking Official Who Was Allegedly Paid Over $5 Million in Kickback Payments

A managing partner of a U.S. broker-dealer was arrested today on felony charges arising from a conspiracy to pay bribes to a senior official in Venezuela’s state economic development bank, Banco de Desarrollo Económico y Social de Venezuela (BANDES).

Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara for the Southern District of New York, and Assistant Director-in-Charge George Venizelos of the FBI’s New York Office made the announcement.

Ernesto Lujan, 50, among others, allegedly arranged the bribe payments to Maria De Los Angeles Gonzalez De Hernandez at BANDES in exchange for her directing BANDES’s financial trading business to the Broker-Dealer. Lujan was arrested this morning in Wellington, Fla., where he resides, and was presented in federal court in West Palm Beach, Fla.

“The huge bribes Mr. Lujan and others allegedly paid funneled millions to his firm and into his own pockets,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Raman. “Bribery corrupts markets, and this arrest – just the latest in the Department’s recent series of anti-corruption charges in various districts – is yet another demonstration that, at the end of the day, the real dividends bribe payers reap are criminal charges.”

“From his perch as managing partner Ernesto Lujan allegedly engaged in a bribery scheme designed to drum up foreign trading business for his firm,” said U.S. Attorney Bharara. “Along with his alleged cohorts, three of whom were arrested last month, he pocketed millions from the alleged scheme which was executed through kickbacks to a Venezuelan government official and through money laundering.”

“As alleged, Lujan led a conspiracy to bribe a foreign government bank official to steer business to his firm,” said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Venizelos. “As previously alleged, much of this trading activity was conducted solely to generate fees for the firm. Lujan personally reaped millions in profits, and used Swiss bank accounts to conceal both the bribes and his own proceeds of the scheme.”

On May 3, 2013, Gonzalez, along with two employees of the Broker-Dealer, Tomas Alberto Clarke Bethancourt and Jose Alejandro Hurtado, were arrested on separate charges relating to this bribery scheme. On May 6, 2013, the government filed a civil forfeiture action in Manhattan federal court seeking the forfeiture of assets held in a number of bank accounts associated with the scheme, including several bank accounts located in Switzerland, and the forfeiture of several properties in the Miami area related to Hurtado that were purchased with his proceeds from the scheme. That same day, the court also issued seizure warrants for multiple bank accounts and a restraining order relating to those Miami properties.

In a separate action, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced civil charges against Lujan.

According to the allegations in the criminal complaint unsealed today, and other documents filed in Manhattan federal court, Lujan, a managing partner of the Broker-Dealer, which was headquartered in New York City, was the branch manager of its Miami offices. In 2008, the Broker-Dealer established a group called the Global Markets Group, which included Lujan, Clarke and Hurtado, and which offered fixed income trading services to institutional clients. One of the Broker-Dealer’s clients was BANDES, which operated under the direction of the Venezuelan Ministry of Finance. The Venezuelan government had a majority ownership interest in BANDES and provided it with substantial funding. Gonzalez, a BANDES official, oversaw the development bank’s overseas trading activity. At her direction, BANDES conducted substantial trading through the Broker-Dealer. Most of the trades executed by the Broker-Dealer on behalf of BANDES involved fixed income investments for which the Broker-Dealer charged the bank a mark-up on purchases and a mark-down on sales.

From December 2008 through October 2010, Lujan, along with Clarke, Hurtado and Gonzalez, allegedly participated in a bribery scheme in which Gonzalez directed trading business she controlled at BANDES to the Broker-Dealer, and in return, agents and employees of the Broker-Dealer, including Lujan, split the revenue the Broker-Dealer generated from this trading business with Gonzalez. During this time period, the Broker-Dealer generated over $60 million in mark-ups and mark-downs from trades with BANDES. Agents and employees of the Broker-Dealer, including Lujan, Clarke and Hurtado, allegedly devised a split with Gonzalez of the commissions paid by BANDES to the Broker-Dealer.

Court records allege that to further conceal the scheme, the kickbacks to Gonzalez were often paid using intermediary corporations and offshore accounts that she held in Switzerland, among other places. For example, at least $9.5 million was transferred from the Broker-Dealer to a Swiss bank account controlled by Clarke, who in turn transferred at least $6.5 million to a Swiss bank account controlled by Lujan. Lujan then allegedly transferred at least $1.5 million of these proceeds to a Swiss bank account controlled by Gonzalez.

Lujan was charged with one count each of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), violation of the FCPA, conspiracy to violate the Travel Act and violation of the Travel Act, which each carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison. He is also charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering and money laundering, which each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

This ongoing investigation is being conducted by the FBI, with assistance from the SEC and the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs. Assistant Chief James Koukios and Trial Attorneys Maria Gonzalez Calvet and Aisling O’Shea of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Harry A. Chernoff and Jason H. Cowley of the Southern District of New York’s Securities and Commodities Fraud Task Force are in charge of the prosecution.

Additional information about the Justice Department’s FCPA enforcement efforts can be
found at http://www.justice.gov/criminal/fraud/fcpa.

The charges contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

Federal Mail Fraud Crimes

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


“Former Guatemalan President Pleads Not Guilty After Extradition”

May 29, 2013

The Wall Street Journal on May 28, 2013 released the following press release:

“Samuel Rubenfeld
Wall Street Journal

A former Guatemalan president was extradited last Friday to New York to face money laundering charges, the latest in the Justice Department’s heightened efforts to get defendants detained internationally to face corruption charges.

Alfonso Portillo,who led Guatemala from 2000 to 2004, embezzled tens of millions of dollars in state assets, some of which he laundered through U.S. and European bank accounts, prosecutors alleged Tuesday.

Portillo pleaded not guilty on Tuesday in a hearing before U.S. District Judge Robert Patterson. If convicted, Portillo faces a maximum of 20 years in prison.

He has long denied the allegations against him, telling CNN en Español in January the charges are a political witch-hunt borne of his opposition to the U.S.-led Iraq war.

“If deposits were made, they are deposits that first of all come from institutions that are not illicit,” he was quoted by CNN as saying. “In order for there to be laundering, the first requirement is that the money is from an illegal origin or comes from an illegal activity.”

Portillo’s extradition to the U.S. highlights a recently favored tool in corruption cases by law enforcement authorities, in which people are detained overseas and brought to the U.S. to face the charges against them.

The Justice Department built up its capacity and bolstered its relationships with foreign counterparts, allowing it to more frequently pursue cases and defendants internationally, said Peter Carr, a spokesman, in an email.

“The result is we are pursuing the extradition of more defendants, including high-profile defendants, such as [Viktor] Bout and Portillo,” Carr said.

However, the results of these efforts are somewhat mixed, based on a review of recent cases.

Bout was extradited and convicted, and sentenced to 25 years in prison. His associate was extradited to New York last week.

In January, a U.K. businessman was extradited, pleaded guilty and was sentenced in El Paso, Texas, federal court to three years behind bars for trying to help ship missile parts to Iran.

And in April 2012, the leader of a Mexican drug cartel was brought to the U.S. to face racketeering and money-laundering charges, for which he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

But prosecutors are struggling to bring a former Thai official to the U.S. to face money-laundering charges in a case that’s been stayed until March 2014, and their support to Bahamian authorities in another case still ended in failure.

In another case, prosecutors have been trying to extradite a South Korean man since 2009 to face U.S. foreign bribery charges, but court papers from the man’s lawyers say Seoul won’t do it because the people he’s accused of bribing aren’t considered public officials under local law.

Carr declined to comment on the Justice Department’s record of extradition.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

————————————————————–

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Liberty Reserve Accused of Laundering Billions Through Virtual Currencies

May 29, 2013

The Wall Street Journal on May 28, 2013 released the following press release:

U.S. Says Firm Laundered Billions

Digital-Currency Group Is Accused of Moving Illicit Cash for Hackers, Drug Dealers and Others

By REED ALBERGOTTI And JEFFREY SPARSHOTT

The money was virtual, but prosecutors say the crime was real.

Officials brought charges against a group of men who allegedly manufactured an Internet-based currency to launder about $6 billion in ill-gotten gains, a sign of authorities’ rising concern with digital cash.

The charges, in an indictment unsealed Tuesday, describe a complex online system set up by a Costa Rica-based organization called Liberty Reserve. The system allegedly was designed to give criminals a way to move money earned from credit-card fraud, online Ponzi schemes, child pornography and other crimes without being detected by law enforcement.

Liberty Reserve, which was incorporated in 2006, was a “bank of choice for the criminal underworld,” according to the indictment, which said the operation allegedly laundered the money through 55 million transactions before it was shut down earlier this month. The company has about one million users world-wide, including about 200,000 people in the U.S., according to prosecutors. They called the plot one of the largest money-laundering operations ever uncovered.

A spokesman for Liberty Reserve couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. Prosecutors said Tuesday that they arrested five of the seven men charged in the indictment Friday in Spain, Costa Rica and Brooklyn, N.Y., and charged them with operating an unlicensed money-transmitting business. The officials said they plan to seek extradition of those arrested abroad, and that the two remaining men are at large.

The indictment against Liberty Reserve comes amid a concerted effort by Washington to police the nascent world of virtual currencies and ensure operators comply with U.S. law.

On Tuesday, in the first use of the 2001 Patriot Act against a virtual currency, the Treasury Department invoked a section of the law to choke off Liberty Reserve from the U.S. financial system. The Treasury’s proposal would prohibit U.S. financial institutions from opening or maintaining accounts for foreign banks that process transactions for Liberty Reserve and require special steps to guard against any transactions involving it.

Virtual currencies, most notably bitcoin, still account for only a tiny fraction of global transactions, but they are being embraced by some Internet merchants and are used in a host of legitimate transactions—for example, Web services and online-dating sites.

Law-enforcement officials are concerned about criminals’ ability to move around money outside the regulated world of banks and traditional money-moving services such as Western Union. Officials recently warned that digital currency exchanges should follow traditional anti-money-laundering rules.

The rise of virtual currencies has been exemplified by bitcoin, which lets Internet users create new money by solving complex math problems. The currency, which launched in 2009 and has gone through some wild spikes in value this spring, has attracted the attention of established companies and venture capitalists alike.

Tuesday’s case doesn’t involve bitcoin, though the virtual-cash community was watching developments closely.

“I think it is just another giant, flashing warning light to bitcoin exchanges: If you’re not compliant, there are some serious risks, both at the federal and state levels,” said Patrick Murck, legal counsel for the Bitcoin Foundation, a trade group that promotes bitcoin software and security standards.

Preet Bharara, the Manhattan U.S. attorney, said at a news conference Tuesday that he believed “virtually all” of Liberty Reserve’s customers used it for criminal purposes, though he said legitimate users can seek to recover funds.

Mr. Bharara didn’t give details on the alleged criminals but said the investigation was continuing. “There’s more to come,” he said Tuesday, adding that the case has so far involved seizing $25 million dollars in 45 bank accounts around the world.

Prosecutors allege Liberty Reserve facilitated a range of criminal activity by allowing alleged criminals to conduct transactions using its digital currency, “LR.” The system is opaque, and Liberty Reserve deliberately kept the users anonymous and untraceable, prosecutors said.

A transaction would start with one person opening a Liberty Reserve account using a false name and address, including what prosecutors said were blatant criminal monikers such as “Russia Hackers” or “Hacker Account.”

That person would wire real currency such as dollars to approved third-party currency exchangers in countries including Russia and Nigeria. The exchangers would convert the dollars into LRs and deposit them into the person’s Liberty Reserve account.

From there, a criminal could buy narcotics, stolen credit-card numbers or other goods by transferring the LRs to another person’s Liberty Reserve account. The recipient of the LRs could go to another unregulated currency exchanger and convert the LRs back into dollars.

Liberty Reserve charged a 1% fee for LR currency transfers and an additional “privacy fee” of 75 cents per transaction to hide Liberty Reserve account numbers, making the transfer virtually untraceable.

Liberty Reserve made an appearance in a criminal case earlier this month. Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, N.Y., accused eight people of stealing about $45 million from automated-teller machines throughout New York City using stolen prepaid debit-card numbers. Prosecutors said at least one of the men used an account at the online-currency operator to transfer some of the allegedly stolen funds.

James T. Hayes Jr., special agent-in-charge of the New York field office of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, said his agency became aware of possible wrongdoing at Liberty Reserve in 2010 and teamed up with the Internal Revenue Service to investigate the matter.

The indictment described how two of Liberty’s founders, Arthur Budovsky and Vladimir Kats, were convicted in 2006 in New York for operating Gold Age Inc. as an unlicensed money-transmitting business.

Lawyers for Mr. Budovsky and the other defendants named in the indictment couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. A lawyer for Mr. Kats declined to comment.

The indictment said Liberty Reserve also caught the attention of Costa Rican regulators in 2009, forcing the company to allegedly set up a fake compliance system. In late 2011, the Treasury Department warned financial institutions about the risks of doing business with Liberty Reserve.

In an Internet chat-room exchange included in the indictment, one defendant allegedly said he knew the company’s activities were “illegal” and said “everyone,” including the U.S. Department of Justice, knows Liberty Reserve “is a money-laundering operation that hackers use.”

About two weeks after the Treasury’s warning note, Liberty Reserve “went underground,” the indictment says, and continued to operate in Costa Rica using a “stripped-down staff working out of an office space held in the name of shell companies.” The defendants also allegedly tried soon after to drain their bank accounts.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

Federal Mail Fraud Crimes

————————————————————–

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.