This 11th post in my “Private Investigators” series focuses on how private investigators may use data brokers to search for your assets & other personal information.
The August 5th Bloomberg article “This Company Has Built a Profile on Every American Adult,” brings up IDI,Inc. The article suggests that IDI has built a profile about you on its idiCore database. Private investigators, debt collectors, lawyers & government authorities might access this database to search for your assets & other personal information. The end of the article also says “IDI’s marketing databases may help PIs predict people’s moves or digitally peek into their cars or medicine cabinets.” IDI could be collecting your personal information through data mining.How can data brokers like IDI mine data? They may analyze your clickstream, as mentioned by my May 11, 2015 post:
Data Brokers Searching For Your Assets, Bank Accounts & Other Personal Information?
As the Federal Trade Commission, (“FTC”), video depicted above reveals, data brokers (a.k.a. “information brokers”) and some other private sector businesses sell your highly personal information. The video says for example, your location, interests, prescriptions and medical history may all be “shared or sold.” Pages 22, 24, 34 & Appendix B-5 of a May 2014 FTC report similarly indicate that data brokers can search for your financial information including: where and when you open a bank account; estimated household income; the assets you own; loan history; credit card use and tax return transcripts.
This 32nd Asset Search Blog post in my “Divorce & Hidden Money” series, explains how Steven Zinnel is thought to have hidden assets during his divorce & personal bankruptcy.
Plastic surgeon Michael D. Brandner & business owner Goderick Augustus Benjamin were accused of committing federal crimes & hiding assets from their wives. Like Dr. Brandner & Mr. Benjamin, Steven Zinnel was a divorcing husband suspected of concealing assets from his wife. According to prosecutors in USA v. Zinnel, Steven Zinnel had hidden assets from his wife Michelle Zinnel; & Steven Zinnel had fraudulently concealed assets during his personal bankruptcy.
Mr. Zinnel reportedly filed his personal bankruptcy to hamper the Family Court’s distribution of property to Michelle Zinnel, during the couple’s divorce. Mr. Zinnel’s e-mail to Michelle Zinnel dated July 15, 2001, seemed to give a glimpse into Mr. Zinnel’s bankruptcy scheme. The e-mail said that as a consequence of Mr. Zinnel’s bankruptcy, Mr. Zinnel expected “all the money to be gone in less than two months” & that “[t]he property settlement will then be very easy.”
During his personal bankruptcy, Mr. Zinnel however, failed to disclose valuable assets which were apparently hidden from Michelle Zinnel & others. Prosecutors ultimately charged Mr. Zinnel with money laundering & bankruptcy fraud. At Mr. Zinnel’s superseding indictment &/or other court filings, prosecutors essentially claimed that Mr. Zinnel concealed assets four ways, through:
You can collect this data in some situations, by issuing subpoenas; using compelled consent forms; or through additional legal tools. Below is the “Financial Investigations Checklist” & it includes a laundry list of items which contain data.¹ You may be able to collect some of the items the list mentions: bank account records; telephone records; utility company records; credit card statements & many others. Data at these kinds of items could conceivably help you follow a money trail to assets hidden from you.
(To Read The Financial Investigations Checklist, Click On The Following Image)
If your adversary is using a business entity to conceal assets from you, one thing to look for is trade-based money laundering. A June 2006 report by the Financial Action Task Force explains that trade-based laundering schemes can include: the over or under-invoicing of goods or services; the over or under-shipping of goods; falsely describing goods or services; or multiple invoicing.¹ You can search for assets hidden via trade-based laundering by spotting the red flags. Page 24 of the June 2006 report describes the red flags and some of them are:
a disparity between a shipped commodity’s bill of lading and its invoice.
a disparity between a commodity’s value as recorded on its invoice and fair market value.
the shipping of goods although there is no profit/economic benefit.
a shipment with a nexus to shell companies.
letters of credit related to a shipment that have been amended or extended repeatedly.
the type of shipped commodity is inconsistent with the importer’s/exporter’s ordinary business activities.
shipping to or from a high-risk geographical location (i.e. a jurisdiction especially vulnerable to money laundering).
According to Attachment A, Mr. Haas paid Enmark & Supermill millions of dollars pursuant to these invoices; and Mr. Haas then took business deductions for “cost of goods sold.” Attachment A also indicates that Enmark and Supermill eventually returned the millions, (less a 2% kick back fee), to Mr. Haas through Mr. Haas’ intermediary, CNC Associates, Inc. Stated differently, it seems that Enmark, Supermill and CNC Associates could have been employed as laundering links in a money laundering circuit. After Mr. Haas’ plea agreement, Mr. Haas was sentenced on November 5, 2007 to two years in prison for violating 18 U.S.C § 371. Mr. Haas additionally paid a $5 million dollar fine and over $70 million dollars in back taxes owed for 2000 and 2001.
When naming offshore havens for opening secret bank accounts, people usually mention Switzerland, the Cayman Islands, Liechtenstein, etc. Meanwhile, bank accounts in almost any country can be put to work to hide & place assets out of reach. “Using Multiple Jurisdictions To Launder Money” discussed a suspected scheme to bribe judges in Italy. According to prosecutors, illicit proceeds from this offshore scheme were hidden in bank accounts located in the U.S. & elsewhere. “Money Laundering, Marital Assets & Divorce” outlines another scheme which relied on cross-border elements to conceal assets. The scheme involved a divorcing spouse in the U.S. who hid undeclared revenue in a Swiss bank & then “washed” it through a bank in Germany.¹
As the above essentially suggests, tracking assets offshore can become a critically important part of your asset search. How do you search for assets hidden offshore? One way is by employing legal tools. The following article discusses the tools federal prosecutors may use to collect evidence from witnesses residing offshore.² Two of the tools the article mentions are compelled consent forms & letters rogatory. These two tools are not just for use by prosecutors. They are sometimes used by divorcing spouses, judgment creditors & others searching for offshore bank accounts/assets hidden offshore:
Click On The Image To Read The Entire Article
¹The fact pattern supplied at “Money Laundering, Marital Assets & Divorce,” has been changed & sanitized for privacy reasons.
As this 31st post in the “Divorce & Hidden Money” series reveals, you may be able to employ letters rogatory to detect assets hidden offshore.
A letter rogatory is an application to a foreign tribunal. It seeks permission to serve process on or gather evidence from a foreign witness. If you are in a divorce in the United States, letters rogatory can usually help you collect evidence of offshore assets your spouse hid from you. You might use letters rogatory to search for assets which can include: bank accounts; real estate; valuable art; business entities; etc. My February 25, 2015 post mentioned the use of letters rogatory in relation to divorce/child support cases in New York.
The February 25, 2015 post discussed one ex-husband who for 30 years failed to pay spousal maintenance &/or child support to his ex-wife in New York. Since the ex-husband lived in places like Mexico, the Dominican Republic & Barbados, legal proceedings in New York did not get the ex-husband to pay his ex-wife. Had the ex-wife been able to afford it, she might have hired lawyers to seek the issuance of letters rogatory to search for the ex-husband’s offshore assets. You may similarly employ letters rogatory if you are in a divorce outside of the United States & your divorcing spouse hid assets from you in the United States.
These kinds of cases are highlighted at Part 1 & Part 2 of “Asset Searches In The U.S. For Divorces Brought Outside The U.S.” Below is a translated copy of a letter rogatory arising out of a divorce in the Republic of Colombia at The 8th Family Court, in Barranquilla.¹ In connection with The Family Court’s distribution of community property from a marriage, the letter rogatory requests bank account/bank customer information at Bank of America in the United States.
¹The letter rogatory has been partly sanitized for privacy reasons.
At Count Two pp. 6-9 of Mr. Kuznetsov’s superseding indictment, prosecutors alleged Mr. Kuznetsov had structured deposits he made in New York City at Chase Manhattan Bank & the United Nations Federal Credit Union. The following case study also discusses structuring.¹ It analyzes how a group of criminals hid illicit drug proceeds by structuring deposits, smuggling cash & going offshore:
Image of hand with money: Africa Studio/Shutterstock.com
“K.C.” a resident of Nebraska, thought she was being stalked. She therefore hired Patricia Walker-Halstead, (“Walker”), to investigate the alleged stalker. Between March 11, 2011 & November 28, 2012 “K.C.” made 59 payments to Walker Investigations, Walker’s private detective agency. Walker represented to “K.C.” that some of the payments would be given to “Scott.” Walker told “K.C.” that “Scott” was a Captain with the Nebraska State Patrol who could help with the investigation.
Walker ultimately pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud. On April 1st, Walker was sentenced to 12 months & 1 day of imprisonment & Walker was ordered to pay restitution to “K.C.” in the amount of $500,000.00. Under a fact pattern different than what is written above, prosecutors might also consider whether someone like “K.C.” intended to have a stalker investigated by bribing the Nebraska State Patrol. Bribing a local law enforcement officer can violate the federal program bribery statute codified at 18 U.S.C. § 666. As a manual for federal prosecutors explains:
[A] charge under 18 U.S.C. § 666 may nonetheless be appropriate if the solicitor or intended recipient of the bribe is a person who acts as an agent of an organization that receives in one year $10,000 or more in Federal grant, loan, contract, or insurance funds. U.S. Attorney’s Manual, 2044 Particular Elements, Web. May 11, 2016.
This 30th post in the “Divorce & Hidden Money” series highlights a RICO lawsuit Helga Glock commenced in 2014. The lawsuit alleges Glock pistol inventor Gaston Glock initially hid assets via shell companies supplied by Charles Ewert—a resident of Luxembourg known as Panama Charly.
Moneylaundering.com’s Editor-in-Chief Kieran Beer says at his April 11th article, that the Panama Papers represent “an unparalleled look at the…abuse of shell companies, in this case those created by Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca.” ¹ Like Mossack Fonseca, Charles Ewert was in the business of forming shell companies. Although based in Luxembourg, Charles Ewert was reportedly called Panama Charly because of the large number of shell companies he had formed in Panama. Charles Ewert is also one of the defendants at Helga Glock’s RICO lawsuit against her ex-husband gunmaker Gaston Glock.
According to allegations at the Proposed Complaint, Charles Ewert, Glock, Inc. & others were members of an alleged RICO enterprise led by Gaston Glock. The Proposed Complaint says that one goal of the alleged RICO enterprise was to deprive Helga Glock of her assets. It claims that Helga Glock detected this alleged scheme in 2011, because of her divorce from Gaston Glock & her ouster from one of Gaston Glock’s companies. Helga Glock apparently filed the Proposed Complaint to search for & recover assets Gaston Glock supposedly hid during the couple’s marriage. Earlier Asset Search Blog posts discussing Helga & Gaston Glock are “Helga Glock’s Search For Gaston Glock’s Assets” & “Helga Glock Claims Gaston Glock Started Concealing His Assets.”
¹Moneylaundring.com’s Webpage, “From The Editor: Will Panama Papers Give Governments New Backbone for Transparency?” Web. Last Viewed May 4, 2016.
This post was written by Leila A. Amineddoleh, Esq., Partner & co-founder at Galluzzo & Amineddoleh LLP. As the Galluzzo & Amineddoleh website mentions, Ms. Amineddoleh “has been published extensively on issues related to art, cultural heritage, and intellectual property, and has appeared in major news outlets, including the New YorkTimes, Forbes Magazine, TIME Magazine, and the Wall Street Journal.” Ms. Amineddoleh’s post discusses how art assets may be hidden from divorcing spouses, creditors & others. It is also the 29th post at the Asset Search Blog’s “Divorce & Hidden Money” series:
In an entry that was published on this blog, I discussed the ways in which art collectors use undisclosed art holdings and valuation uncertainties to evade legal responsibilities (such as payment of tax bills of alimony to divorced spouses). Just as Audrey Hepburn’s character discovered that her husband hid his wealth in three valuable stamps in the 1963 film “Charade,” art collectors have been using their collections to hide value for years. Difficulties related to valuation arise, particularly when it becomes impossible to locate the artwork or determine the identity of the actual owner. But with breaking news about the “Panama Papers,” suspicion about art’s role in the obstruction of justice and concealment of funds has been confirmed again. Wealthy individuals are using artwork as an investment tool and they are shielding these holdings through shell companies and misleading tools. In light of these facts, the art world is once again coming under scrutiny.
The art market is one of the least regulated markets in the world, as transactions are completed without oversight, due to the nature of the trade. It is particularly shocking as the value of the art market is astronomically high. According to Art Market Report, sales of art exceeded $63.8 billion in 2015.
However, there are valid reasons for anonymity in the art world. First and foremost, secrecy is guarded due to security concerns. Whereas tens of millions of dollars in cash are difficult to walk off with, artworks are usually portable. A single lightweight canvas may be worth over $100 million, making the object vulnerable to theft. It is important to protect information about the works in private collections to limit the information available to thieves fixated on the objects.
Another reason to hide information is more personal. Collectors may not want to admit to selling works due to poor cash flow. Some owners are forced to sell works when facing financial hardships. Those individuals do not want this information to become public. At the same time, buyers may not want competing buyers to procure an overabundance of information about their purchases. Art is a personal passion, and something that some collectors do not want made public.
However, art is also used to hide assets, evade taxes, and unfairly withhold value from deserving parties (like creditors or divorcing spouses). This regrettable use of art was confirmed after the leak of the “Panama Papers.” In April, a Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca, experienced a security breach and had over 11 million documents from internal files become public. Although illegal to assist someone in tax evasion, Mossack Fonseca specializes in establishing corporate structures to hide assets. The information in the leak confirmed the suspicion that wealthy individuals use shell companies to hide assets in contemplation of impending divorces or litigation. Continue Reading