One who intends to leave others better off for his having existed.

1/17/15

One Thing Migrant Smugglers Can't Do Without: Big U.S. Banks

"Diaz paid for part of the trip using one of America’s biggest banks, Wells Fargo & Co.

Major banks, including Bank of America Corp. (BAC), JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Wells Fargo, have been used as financial conduits for the smuggling industry, according to evidence in a federal criminal case against a gang of 15 human smugglers and warrants from prosecutors in Arizona, Maryland and Texas.

...They slept on bare, filthy floors for a week, squeezed in among 40 other people in two rooms -- until Federico, Dionisio’s older brother, who was already living in Doraville, deposited $5,200 into the gang’s Wells Fargo (WFC) accounts. Two men then put Dionisio, Danilo and 11 other undocumented immigrants into a van and drove them to Atlanta.

“We weren’t going anywhere until the money showed up in the bank,” Dionisio says.

...the institutions have fallen short on their responsibility to detect and report suspicious cash deposits and withdrawals -- including money that flows through their accounts into the hands of gangs, federal investigators and bank compliance officers say.

...“There’s a level of ordinary suspicion that banks and regulators are failing to employ.”

...The 1970 Bank Secrecy Act and the 2001 Patriot Act require banks to monitor transactions for activity that may be tied to money laundering and other crimes, including human smuggling.

...In January 2006, prosecutors issued subpoenas ordering JPMorgan and Wells Fargo to look for accounts suspected of being used by coyotes.

...Phoenix police targeted the same transaction patterns and seized hundreds of accounts at Bank of America, JPMorgan (JPM) and Wells Fargo from 2006 to 2008. Since March 2013, Arizona prosecutors have gotten court-ordered seizure warrants to shut down 325 additional accounts suspected of belonging to smugglers at Bank of America and Wells Fargo.

...In 2014, Bank of America required all cash depositors in the U.S. to show identification. JPMorgan began accepting cash deposits into accounts only from the person named on the account and official co-signers. Wells Fargo took none of those steps, Grisham says.

“Wells Fargo didn’t respond,” she says.

...Wells Fargo continuously monitors accounts and reports suspicious activity to authorities, says spokeswoman Richele Messick. The bank complies with all laws and regulations, she says.

...Smugglers prefer Bank of America, JPMorgan and Wells Fargo because they need banks with branches across the country to receive payments, says Homeland Security’s Welch.

...The smugglers told Dionisio and his nephew that they wouldn’t be released until someone put $5,200, the second smuggling-fee installment, into Wells Fargo accounts. About 1,850 miles away, in Doraville, Federico’s mobile phone rang. A male voice ordered him to go to a Wells Fargo branch.

“I went to the bank and deposited the cash,” Federico says.

...On Jan. 9, 2013, the day after the two men arrived in Doraville, Homeland Security Investigations agents searched the house in Mesa where Dionisio and his nephew had been held. Inside, they found a spiral notebook listing the names of 42 smuggled people, including Dionisio and Danilo; their destinations; contact phone numbers; and shorthand references to payments to accounts at Wells Fargo, Bank of America and JPMorgan, according to the ledger, which federal agents described in detail in affidavits filed in U.S. District Court in Phoenix.

...Part of the fees smuggling gangs collect go to Mexican drug cartels, says Matt Allen, who heads Homeland Security Investigations’ unit in Arizona.

...Wachovia Corp., which Wells Fargo had bought, admitted in court in 2010 that it hadn’t done enough to spot drug-trafficking money among the $378.4 billion it handled for Mexican currency exchange houses from 2004 to 2007.

The Justice Department charged the bank with violating the Bank Secrecy Act, and Wachovia paid $160 million in fines and penalties and promised to revamp its detection systems.

A year later, the government dropped the charges."

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2015-01-16/one-thing-gangs-smuggling-latin-migrants-over-the-border-can-t-do-without-big-u-s-banks.html

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