High-Priced Bongs, and Other Ways Pot Businesses Handle Cash – American Baker’s BankThink

Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 3.51.48 PMThe good, the bad and the ugly of the legal marijuana business

With medical marijuana now legal in 23 states and recreational marijuana legal in Colorado, Washington, Alaska and Oregon, cannabis is a legitimate growth industry generating substantial income. In Colorado alone, the pot industry is expected to pour an estimated $120 million in tax revenue in the state’s coffers for 2015. Nationwide, medical and recreational marijuana as an industry is expected to net between $2 and $3 billion per year in revenue.

You might think banks would be lining up to do business with these cash-rich entrepreneurs, but nothing could be further from the truth. The banks, rightfully so, in my opinion, assume they are putting themselves at risk with the federal government by engaging in marijuana-based businesses, as marijuana is still considered an illegal substance on the federal level. And the reality is today’s banking industry is all about risk mitigation, especially when it comes to cash-based businesses and the potential for rampant money laundering.

Yet, as I stated above, this is a quickly growing and legitimate industry in the states where it is legal. In its infancy, however, marijuana entrepreneurs are facing a mountain of regulatory and financial issues. The biggest of these issues is the lack of access to banking services. Here are what I’d consider the good, the bad and the ugly stories related to legal marijuana banking and taxation.

To read the rest of this story at American Banker’s BankThink blog, please click here.

Originally published at www.americanbanker.com on February 29, 2016.

Mexico’s Know Your Country Problem – Medium

Mexico develops a U.S. dollar transfer business to thwart money laundering and encourage international commerce

Bloomberg Business broke the news last week that Mexico will soon enter the dollar transfer business in an effort to catch money laundering before it causes harm and to promote the continued exchange of U.S. currency by legitimate Mexican businesses. Mexico’s money laundering woes, followed by subsequent de-risking and this proposed dollar transfer solution, are prime examples of the impact ‘Know Your Country’ can have on a nation’s economy.

Money laundering leads to punishment and de-risking

When it comes to criminal activities, money laundering is a necessary evil. Criminal enterprises in Mexico were finding it a little too easy to launder illicit pesos through U.S. banks. For example, banks were failing to flag transfers linked to Mexican drug cartels, with Wachovia’s gaffe of failing to alert authorities to billions of dollars in wire transfers, travelers checks and cash shipments through Mexico being one of the most egregious. This led to a crackdown by U.S. regulators and law enforcers, causing many banking institutions to back out of working with Mexican businesses entirely as a way to avoid the risk of money laundering and the millions of dollars in penalties associated with it. This process of de-risking, while understandable, does not foster economic growth.

What happens now? Click here to find out on Medium.com. . .

Money laundering is not a victimless crime – Medium

When discussing money laundering, I rarely dig into the details of the victims. Instead, I’ve focused on the actions and possible motives of the criminals, the size of their crimes and the resulting penalties. This may have given the impression that money laundering is a largely victimless crime, but nothing could be further from the truth. Typically, the victims of money laundering are reimbursed for the financial crimes perpetrated against them, but often face little recourse in terms of getting compensated for physical pain and/or mental anguish in civil court — unless that case is focused on some aspect of terrorism.

Americans can legally sue foreign governments and the banks that support them for compensation related to terrorist attacks. By linking money laundering with terrorism, there may be some justice for these victims in the court system. Here are just two instances:

A Father’s Love Uncovers Iranian Mess

In 1995. Stephen Flatow’s 20-year old daughter Alisa was killed in a terrorist attack by a suicide bomber on the Gaza Strip. What followed is simply incredible. . . Click here to read the rest of the story on Medium.com.

AML Scandals that Flew Under the Radar in ’15 – American Banker’s BankThink Blog

Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 3.03.02 PMIn addition to anti-money-laundering scandals involving global banks and worldwide organizations such as FIFA that grabbed headlines last year, there were plenty of damaging laundering convictions and accusations in 2015 that went unnoticed but still took a heavy toll on midlevel banks.

Money laundering is a crime that occurs more often than the general public realizes, and in most sectors of our economy. In the past year alone, charity officials, a mortuary owner, a church director and a doctor providing chemo treatments were at the center of appalling cases you probably never heard about.

1. Tayfun Karauzum, of Newport Beach, Calif., was sentenced to five years in prison for distributing $1 million to $2.5 million of Potion 9, which contained a solvent that metabolizes in the body to become gamma-Hydroxybutyrate, or GHB, a known date-rape drug. He then laundered the proceeds.

2. Charles and Diana Muir were sentenced to 48 and six months in prison, respectively, and forced to return the $1.1 million they stole from a 140-year-old college scholarship charity in Louisville, Ky. — the Woodcock Foundation — that was run by Charles Muir. The couple then laundered the proceeds through Diana Muir’s dental business.

To view the rest of the top 10 most unheralded, yet just as disturbing money laundering stories from 2015 please click here.

American banks: all aboard Bitcoin Express? – Medium

U.S. applying anti-money laundering rules to digital currencies

Digitally encrypted cryptocurrencies are hot, particularly as consumer confidence in the current global money infrastructure wanes. So what exactly is a cryptocurrency? The most visible example, Bitcoin bypasses traditional banking systems and operates as an alternative to cash. It’s decentralized, virtual and somewhat anonymous, and was originally developed to handle transactions over the Internet. The currency units consist of a series of numbers that can be traded between accounts, or “wallets,” for services or goods; when it launched in 2009, Bitcoin transactions happened without any government interference (or oversight).

Today, Bitcoin’s not just popular with the average consumer; organized crime and the criminal element have figured out how to use it to efficiently launder money, just as they did with the original cryptocurrency, eGold. In fact, I recently wrote about a money laundering case involving Bitcoin and two secret servicemen who attempted to launder a considerable amount of Bitcoin stolen from Silk Road. For this reason, the U.S. is now applying the anti-money laundering (AML) rules initially written to govern traditional financial organizations to all digital cash companies.

Perhaps even more interesting is that. . . Click here to read the rest of this article on Medium.com.

Money laundering uptick in 2016? Magic 8 Ball says, ‘signs point to yes.’ – Medium

When I was a kid, the Magic 8 Ball was a quirky toy used to tell fortunes or predict the future. The answers to yes-no questions were often vague enough to be accurate, such as “Ask Again Later” and “Don’t Count on It.” As we kick-off 2016, it might be fun to ask the Magic 8 Ball what we can expect to see as far as financial institutions and risk strategies go for coping with money laundering in the coming months.

Most Likely. We all know that we can expect to see an uptick in attempts to launder money, despite the tightened scrutiny by banks. In fact, as 2015 drew to a close, a man in Minnesota was being charged with conspiring to launder more than $2 million in a penny stock fraud scheme. It’s probably just human nature: where there are laws, there will always be people who try to figure out how to avoid them for personal gain.

Signs Point to Yes. . . Click here to read the rest of this prediction article. 

A place for your gold or a mini $ laundromat? – Medium

5 ways to identify suspicious activity with safe deposit boxes

Swiss banks are synonymous with anonymity. But the threats of money laundering and terrorist financing are enough to force some banking changes — particularly when it comes to safe deposit boxes.

Recently, India and Switzerland have been working closely together to identify Indians who have potentially been stashing illicit money in Swiss safe deposit boxes. Switzerland has already disclosed account information at the request of the Indian government, an action that would not have taken place 20 years ago. But the Swiss government also issued assurances that its safe deposit box regulations are sufficient to deal with increased money laundering risks at this time.

Just how popular are safe deposit boxes today? Click here to read the rest of this story. . .

Silk Road, Bitcoin and the Secret Servicemen – Medium

Two Secret Service agents, both of whom were members of the Baltimore Silk Road Task Force charged with breaking Silk Road’s ring of illegal online activity (primarily drug sales), have pled guilty to money laundering and other charges. Shaun Bridges was sentenced on December 7 to 71 months behind bars, and ordered to forfeit $651,000 of the $820,000 he reportedly stole and laundered. Bridges’ colleague, Carl Force, was convicted of a similar crime last October, sentenced to six and a half years in prison and ordered to pay $340,000 in compensation.

Two members of a task force ordered to bring down an online black market, become criminals themselves; how does this happen? To read the rest of this story, please click here.

Bank Fraud: More Common Than You Think – Medium

When you think of financial fraud, you might envision money laundering activities conducted by members of organized crime syndicates. Or you might think of how a stolen identity helped thieves take your money or leverage your credit cards. In truth, the laws intended to help financial institutions thwart financial fraud are broad enough to cover these acts and much more involving everyday criminals — some who are not so smart, and some who are so sophisticated that it takes time to bring them down.

Last month, a used car dealer in Florida pled guilty to bank fraud for a check kiting scheme that defrauded an unnamed financial institution of over $1 million. The crime happened in 2011, and I’m willing to bet that the bank’s Know Your Customer (KYC) policies and its internal processes for approving check drafts against uncollected funds have since been tightened.

Also this past month, a woman who embezzled money in 2014 from her employer was convicted. . . to read the rest of the article, please click here.







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