PROSECUTIONS OF MONEY MOVERS OR “MONEY MULES” Conspirator or Money Launderer
I. WHAT IS A “MONEY MULE”
Often fraudsters will contact people claiming that they need help, or claiming that they want to pay you, for receiving, depositing, and transferring monies. This type of person looks for someone to use to assist them in moving or laundering money. This fraudster will also look to profit from the victim they claim to want to employ.
This usually happens in the form of claims that they have problems with a bank, so they want to pay the victim to use their account. A fraud person may also claim to be overseas and to not have access to banks or systems to receive and transfer monies for their business.
When a victim agrees to receive deposits for a person, then send or transfer the monies, the fraudster is using that victim as a “money mule.” This means that the fraudster uses a victim to move the monies in the victim’s name and account – not the fraudster’s account. This is done on purpose to prevent a record of money deposits and transfers from being in the fraudster’s name.
II. COMMON SCHEMES
A fraudster will either forward a fictitious check to an agreeable victim, then instruct the victim to transfer that amount of money from the victim’s account right away. When the victim does this, he is left with a check that is insufficient funds after he transfers the money as directed.
Another practice of a fraudster is to send checks that will clear in the beginning, with the victim transferring monies and receiving a small payment. Then the victim receives what turns out to be a fictitious check that does not clear, leaving him/her with a loss. In these situations, the fraudster, who uses a false name, stops contacting the victim, who is left with the loss.
A true money laundering practice by a fraudster is to “launder” monies that were stolen or fraudulently obtained. The fraudster will have the victim deposit monies into the victim’s account, then forward the monies elsewhere. This, of course, will show as a transfer or deposit from the victim, as opposed to stolen or illegally obtained monies.
Such a scheme can involve monies obtained by fraudulent representations for investments, computer programs, or government funds. The illegally obtained monies might be from computer hacking or spoofing emails to obtain bank account information or to intercept wire transfers. An obvious money mule is one who transports cash from drug trafficking, but the illegal source of the monies for money mules can be any kind of illegal activity.
III. WHAT IF I UNKNOWINGLY TRANSFER ILLEGAL MONIES?
The use of victims in these schemes has become more common. You can be victimized by someone leaving you with a loss, or by someone using your account(s) even if the monies cleared your account and you were paid. That is, even if the monies you received cleared and were sufficient funds, the goal of the fraudster may have been to get monies into his account from a seemingly legitimate source – you.
When stolen or fraudulently obtained monies are traced, and they lead to you and your accounts, that’s when you can be investigated. Even if you are not aware of any wrongdoing regarding the money you deposited and transferred, you may be under investigation for the stolen or fraudulently obtained monies that went into your account.
IV. VICTIM CAN BECOME A DEFENDANT
If illegal monies are traced to your account, an investigator may assume that you were part of a scheme to move or launder stolen or fraudulent monies. When a victim has to account for the monies received and where, the victim usually does not have a real name for the fraudster or legitimate contact information for him.
These facts can increase suspicion of federal agents, local police, or other investigators. It is important in this situation to save all information you have from the person who forwarded the monies to you.
V. MONEY LAUNDERING AND CONSPIRACY
A person who receives and transfers illegal monies can be considered a target of an investigation, usually for money laundering, conspiracy to commit money laundering, or conspiracy to commit fraud.
VI. CONTACT ATTORNEY JOHN TEAKELL
If you have been contacted by law enforcement, or if you are under investigation for the transfer of illegal monies, contact former federal prosecutor John Teakell. Mr. Teakell will use his experience to defend against any potential charges of money laundering, conspiracy, or any other criminal charge.