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Asset Search Blog

Investigating & Recovering Hidden Money & Other Assets

7 Tips For A Successful Asset Search

Posted in Asset Search/Fraud Investigation, Bank Search, Bankruptcy, Divorce & Child Support, Hidden Money


Photo Of Light BulbDETERMINE BENEFICIAL OWNERSHIP—Has your adversary hidden assets by transferring them to nominees, (i.e. intermediaries), or by using nominees to make purchases?  If your adversary does this, the success of your asset recovery may depend on showing that your adversary is the true beneficial owner of the hidden assets.  Agencies including U.S. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network discuss beneficial ownership at their March 5, 2010 Guidance on Obtaining and Retaining Beneficial Ownership Information, No. Fin-2010-G001, at fn.2.  The Wolfsberg Group of banks’ FAQs On Beneficial Ownership, supplies its own definition of beneficial ownership.

Photo Of Light BulbFIND LAUNDERED ASSETS—Launderers hide assets by washing them through a money laundering circuit with laundering links.  Laundering links can be shell companies; gatekeepers like lawyers & accountants; etc.  Through money laundering, your adversary may hide marital assets; bankruptcy estate assets; trust assets; assets belonging to a decedent’s estate and virtually anything else.  Even an act as ordinary as buying real estate can be an opportunity to hide & launder assets, as set forth by the Egmont Group case study available here

Photo Of Light BulbUSE LEGAL TOOLS—Tools which may help detect your adversary’s money trail are available in legal proceedings ranging from divorces to bankruptcies.  My May 18, 2015 article discusses one of these tools, 11 production requests geared toward detecting assets hidden offshore.  Depositions are another legal tool for gathering evidence about your adversary’s assets.  At a deposition, your lawyer should ask your adversary about any bank accounts; credit cards; real estate; etc.  The IRS asks these questions at its Information Collection Statement, Form 433-A.  The questions/material at the Form 433-A can be modified and used to depose your adversary about assets.

Photo Of Light BulbLETTERS ROGATORYRequests for letters rogatory (a.k.a requests for judicial assistance)—are used to gather evidence from witnesses residing offshore.  This means that a divorcing spouse; judgment creditor; etc. may utilize these requests to collect evidence about offshore bank accounts from foreign bank witnesses.  Billionaire gunmaker Gaston Glock’s former wife Helga filed a request for judicial assistance in federal court in Atlanta, Georgia.  It claimed that because of the couple’s divorce in Austria, Helga Glock needed to collect evidence about Gaston Glock’s assets from businesses in Georgia including Glock, Inc.

Photo Of Light BulbCOMPELLED CONSENT/AUTHORIZATION FORMS—can be utilized to perform a bank account search if you already know: where your adversary’s bank is located; the bank account number; and the identity of the bank signatory.  You would apply to the Court for an order, (i.e. a judicial direction), compelling the bank signatory to execute a consent/authorization form for the release of bank account information.  You then send this executed form to your adversary’s bank which permits the bank to release your adversary’s bank account information to you.

Photo Of Light BulbINFORMANT’S TIPS—are one of the best ways to detect complex asset concealment schemes.  This is why the Securities Exchange Commission & the Internal Revenue Service offer tipsters rewards through whistleblower programs.  A business partner; paramour; family member; or others associated with your adversary may have direct knowledge of your adversary’s assets.  If any of them fall out of favor with your adversary they may be willing to tip you about your adversary’s hidden assets.  An attempt to elicit a tip from an informant is covered by the article “An Asset Search, Tax Fraud & Divorce.”

Photo Of Light BulbCOMPUTER-BASED RESEARCH—sometimes reveals assets hidden by an individual or corporation.  This research is discussed at “A Low-Cost Asset Search.”  It can include searches for physical business assets; IP licenses like patents & copyrights; & searches for additional things.


¹Money laundering case study/excerpt courtesy of the Egmont Group, “100 Cases From The Egmont Group” at pp. 17-18.

First Image: Texelart/Shutterstock.com

Photo of Lightbulb courtesy of Flickr (Licensed) by One Way Stock

Copyright 2015-16 Fred L. Abrams

An Asset Search When Money Is Hidden Offshore

Posted in Asset Search/Fraud Investigation, Bank Search, Divorce & Child Support, Financial Institutions, Hidden Money, Money Laundering

Image Offshore Assets

The following can help you detect money concealed in an offshore bank account:


When an adversary hides funds at an offshore bank there is always an electronic trace. The trace occurs because the bank stores electronic information comprised of: bank account opening documents; bank signature cards; monthly bank statements; etc.  In addition to an electronic trace, there are usually other signs of a money trail to spot.  As “Secreting Assets Without A Border Trace” reveals, you may be able to detect the money trail by “concentrat[ing] on foreign hotels, payment information, telephone records and on credit card expenses for details of physical movements and lifestyle.”


A complex scheme to hide assets is sometimes facilitated by a lawyer, as described at “Striking Out During Your Asset Search? Don’t Forget To Look At The Lawyers” & “Hiding Assets Through Gatekeepers With Accounts Across The Globe.” A lawyer may have opened your adversary’s offshore bank account &/or withdrawn money from it. By bringing legal proceedings, you can sometimes depose this lawyer/serve the lawyer with discovery demands, as described at “A Debt Collection In New York.” “An Asset Search Of A Lawyer Employed To Conceal Cash” also shows how these discovery demands might lead you to a secret bank account.


Money Laundering, Marital Assets & Divorce” mentions a divorcing husband who transferred money, (i.e. black capital), originating in the U.S., into a secret Swiss bank account.  Through financial transactions including a back-to-back loan, the husband laundered the money he transferred offshore.  Individuals like the husband can secretly transfer money into an offshore bank account via bulk-cash smuggling; phony invoicing schemes; disguised wire transfers; & numerous other ways.  You might be able to detect this suspicious transfer of money by looking for badges of fraud. According to the Court in Salomon v. Kaiser (In re Kaiser), 722 F.2d 1574 (2d Cir. 1983), the badges of a fraudulent asset transfer are:

  1. the lack or inadequacy of consideration;
  2. family, friendship or close associate relationship between the parties;
  3. the retention of possession, benefit or use of the property in question;
  4. the financial condition of the party sought to be charged both before and after the transaction in question;
  5. the existence or cumulative effect of a pattern, or series of transactions, or course of conduct, after a debt, the onset of financial difficulties or pendency or threat of suits by creditors;
  6. & the general chronology of the events and transactions under inquiry. (Id.)

Image: Irina Mos/Shutterstock.com

Copyright 2016 Fred L. Abrams

Putting The Squeeze On ISIS By Searching For & Taking Its Assets

Posted in Asset Search/Fraud Investigation, Hidden Money, Money Laundering

This January 18th video depicts three 250 pound GBU-39 bombs dropped by B-1 or F-18 aircraft, in rapid succession on the same spot of the roof of an ISIS cash depot near Mosul, Iraq. As of last week, it was the ninth ISIS cash depot US-led forces had destroyed in Iraq &/or Syria. ISIS uses cash depots to store assets it accumulates from oil operations, kidnappings, looting & taxes.  ISIS loots banks; art assets & cultural heritage property; & it taxes Iraqi government officials in Mosul & businesses in Syria & Iraq. ISIS also places a protection tax on Christians & other non-Muslims.


Since ISIS can not sustain itself without vast sums of money, searching for & then destroying its money is a force multiplier for US-led forces & Western nations fighting ISIS. At “U.S. Drops Bombs Not Just on ISIS, but on Its Cash, Too,” Army Colonel Steven Warren makes the point: “[a] combination of taking away their ability to earn money by striking oil and taking away the money that they have on hand by striking the Daesh[ISIS] cash really puts the squeeze on them [emphasis added].”


Besides destroying cash depots & other assets ISIS possesses in Iraq or Syria, US-led forces &/or Western nations are searching for assets ISIS hides across the globe. These assets hidden offshore & laundered by ISIS, include: foreign bank accounts; valuable real estate; plundered antiquities; etc. One way Western nations try to search for & interdict these assets is through the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units.

As set forth at “Searching For Assets Used To Carry Out Terrorist Attacks,” the Egmont Group uses money laundering indicators as part of its effort to locate assets washed & hidden by ISIS. The Egmont Group has also developed operational intelligence for law enforcement & intelligence agencies about Foreign Terrorist Fighters who travel to Iraq & Syria to join ISIS. This endeavor is discussed at the December 23, 2015 Egmont Group Communiqué available by clicking here.

January 18, 2016 video: U.S. Department of Defense.

Copyright 2016 Fred L. Abams

Two Private Investigators & Their Bogus Asset Searches

Posted in Asset Search/Fraud Investigation, Bank Search, Divorce & Child Support, Hidden Money, Illegal Asset Searches, Money Laundering, Private Investigators, White-Collar Crime Generally
7402945976_8ca11c5515_qThis is the 9th post in my series discussing private investigators.  It highlights former private investigators Elaine White & Cullen Johnson who were convicted of a money laundering conspiracy.  The conspiracy involved bogus asset searches Ms. White & Mr. Johnson apparently performed for their clients.  Mr. Johnson seemed to blame the bogus searches on ‘the fog of information.’ As also set forth below, Ms. White recently petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus arguing she should be resentenced in her criminal case.  

From about 2006-2012 ex-Toronto private investigator Elaine White &/or her husband ex-police detective Cullen Johnson, offered asset searches including a search for bank accounts.  Ms. White’s & Mr. Johnson’s clients were licensed private investigators, divorcing spouses & others seeking assets hidden from them.  Ms. White &/or Mr. Johnson however, supplied their clients with phony financial data/spurious bank account information.  As reported at “Island-hopping private eyes indicted on fraud, money laundering charges,” police criminally charged Ms. White & Mr. Johnson for frauds related to clients in Canada.

Ms. White & Mr. Johnson then fled to the Bahamas & the Turks & Caicos Islands.  Next, they were extradited from the Turks & Caicos Islands to face criminal charges in Newport News, Virginia in USA v. White, et al. Docket No. 4:13-cr-00047.  An August 23, 2012 Affidavit In Support Of Criminal Complaint And Arrest Warrant described the criminal case against Ms. White & Mr. Johnson.  Ms. White’s & Mr. Johnson’s April 10, 2013 indictment also said they had “operated a purported asset locator business for clients.”  During September 2013, Mr. Johnson pleaded guilty to Count Two of the indictment (i.e. conspiracy to commit money laundering).  On October 7, 2013 the Court also accepted Ms. White’s guilty plea to Count Two.

The Statement of Facts at Ms. White’s plea agreement showed that Ms. White had provided her clients with “false and fraudulent data and fabricated bank records…”  Mr. Johnson also wrote a December 24, 2013 letter discussing the bogus private investigations.  According to the letter available here, Mr. Johnson’s ‘misjudgments’ in the investigations were due to the ‘fog of information’:


On January 16, 2014 Ms. White & Mr. Johnson were both sentenced to 66 months in prison, 3 years of supervised release and ordered to pay $1,021,738 in restitution.  Ms. White is reportedly serving this sentence at the low-security federal prison in Aliceville, Alabama.  While there, Ms. White drafted her December 21, 2015 Petition For A Writ of Habeas Corpus Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255.  At the Petition, Ms. White alleges she had ineffective assistance of counsel during her criminal case & that she is entitled to a resentencing.

¹ Page numbered “17” at Cullen Johnson’s December 24, 2013 letter, (Docket Entry 76), U.S.A. v. White et al., United States District Court, Eastern District of Virginia, Docket No. 4:13-cr-00047.

Image courtesy of Flickr (Licensed) by Tsahi Levent-Levi.

Copyright 2016 Fred L. Abrams

Hiding Assets By Combining Bulk-Cash Smuggling With Other Methods

Posted in Divorce & Child Support, Financial Institutions, Hidden Money, Money Laundering, Swiss Banks, Tax Fraud, White-Collar Crime Generally
Schemes to hide assets can involve bulk-cash smuggling combined with other methods.

A scheme to hide assets from you may be carried out by combining bulk-cash smuggling with other concealment methods.

A divorcing spouse; judgment debtor; tax cheat; etc. may use several methods to conceal assets. “Red Flags For An Asset Search” listed 18 of these methods.  The methods for hiding assets included: bulk-cash smuggling; shell companies; multiple jurisdictions; foreign bank accounts; & nominees.  These methods might have been combined by Mr. Victor Lipukhin to conceal more than $10 million dollars in secret Swiss bank accounts. The press release “Former President of Russian Steel Producer’s U.S. Subsidiary Indicted for Hiding Assets in Secret Swiss Bank Accounts,” talked about Mr. Lipukhin’s alleged scheme to hide assets from the IRS.

Mr. Lipukhin was indicted on 3/20/2014 because of the suspected scheme.  The indictment suggests Mr. Lipukhin may have employed bulk-cash smuggling; multiple jurisdictions; shell companies; & other methods to conceal his alleged beneficial ownership of Swiss bank accounts. Mr. Lipukhin is thought to have initially formed shell companies in the Bahamas which he allegedly used to open the Swiss bank accounts. Mr. Lipukhin might have hired a nominee director for the shell companies, who could have acted as a bank signatory on the Swiss bank accounts.

If Mr. Lipukhin used a nominee director, it would have helped hide his suspected beneficial ownership of the Swiss accounts. According to the indictment, Mr. Lipukhin supposedly relied on real estate transactions; mortgages & a Canadian lawyer to hide assets.  Mr. Lipukhin also reportedly bought an automobile by paying approximately $24,539 in cash.  Although the seller of the automobile was required to notify the IRS by filing a Form 8300, Mr. Lipukhin allegedly tried to persuade the seller to keep quiet about the sale.  If this actually happened, it would have been a red flag that Mr. Lipukhin might have engaged in bulk-cash smuggling or money laundering.  The criminal case against Mr. Lipukhin is still pending at the prosecutor’s office, as the Court’s docket report reveals.

Image: Gorich/Shutterstock.com

Copyright 2016 Fred L. Abrams

Revisiting Four Asset Search Blog Posts From 2015

Posted in Asset Search/Fraud Investigation, Bank Search, Divorce & Child Support, Hidden Money, Privacy Laws, Tax Fraud, White-Collar Crime Generally

12 29 15 post

Favorite Asset Search Blog posts from 2015 include:


ERR Rembrandt111-SC-374664Recovering Art Assets & Cultural Heritage Propertycovers how divorcing spouses; terrorists & others may employ art to hide their assets.  This post was written by Leila A. Amineddoleh, Esq. who is an art and cultural heritage lawyer and an adjunct professor at Fordham University School of Law.



 Private Investigators: A Surreptitious Search For Money Hidden In Divorce & Other Cases— discusses what might possibly go wrong during a search for hidden assets. It mentions searching for assets by using wiretaps; bank searches; law enforcement databases & physical surveillance.


FTC video sharing infoData Brokers Searching For Your Assets, Bank Accounts & Other Personal Information?explains that data brokers mine data & harvest your private information.  The information can consist of “where and when you open a bank account; estimated household income; the assets you own; loan history; credit card use and tax return transcripts.”

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 5.34.06 PMRed Flags & The IRS Search For Attorney Memmott’s Assets—analyzes a tax fraud prosecution.  In this case, prosecutors claimed Attorney Orion Douglas Memmott concealed assets through nominees (i.e. intermediaries), back-dated promissory notes & a business bank account.


First Image: macbrianmun/Shutterstock.com

Second Image: National Archives and Records Administration

Third Image courtesy of Flickr (Licensed) by Byung Kyu Park

Fourth Image: Courtesy of U.S. Department of Homeland Security/U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement

Fifth Image courtesy of Flickr (Licensed) by DonkeyHotey

Copyright 2015 Fred L. Abrams

Red Flags For An Asset Search

Posted in Asset Search/Fraud Investigation, Bankruptcy, Divorce & Child Support, Hidden Money

12 22 articleBelow is a list of red flags.  Recognizing the red flags can help you detect assets your adversary has hidden from you.  I first published the list in 2007 at my article “Asset Search Indicia For Divorce, Debt Collection & Bankruptcy.”  The list consists of common asset concealment methods:

Image: Davi Sales Batista/Shutterstock.com

Copyright 2007- 2015 Fred L. Abrams

Searching For Assets Used To Carry Out Terrorist Attacks

Posted in Asset Search/Fraud Investigation, Money Laundering

ISIS-inspired terrorists Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik reportedly spent about $4,500 on pipe bombs; guns & additional items for their December 2nd terrorist attack in San Bernadino, California.

The December 2nd terrorist attack in San Bernadino, California was a relatively low-cost terrorist operation.  An NBC article reported that terrorists Syed Farook & Tashfeen Malik spent approximately $4,500 to carry out the December 2nd attack.  Lone wolf or small cell terrorist attacks like the one on December 2nd are often low cost operations.  The low cost of similar terrorist operations is discussed at pp. 10-11 of “Emerging Terrorist Financing Risks,” published by the Financial Action Task Force anti-money laundering group.

Page 10 of “Emerging Terrorist Financing Risks” cites a Norwegian report on small cell terrorist networks.  It cites the Norwegian report for the proposition that ‘roughly 75% of the 40 violent extremist terrorist plots in Europe (between 1994 and 2013) it studied, cost less than the equivalent of USD 10 000.’  Page 11 of “Emerging Terrorist Financing Risks” also details the terrorist financing of the Charlie Hebdo & kosher grocery store terrorist attacks in Paris.  Page 11 says:

The Charlie Hebdo and kosher store attacks, which were perpetrated with weapons, did not require a substantial amount of funds. As the three terrorists involved did not have a regular job at the time of attacks, the following sources of funding may have been used:

  • A EUR 6 000 consumer loan, obtained with forged documents and cashed out.
  • The proceeds of the overseas sale of a used car.
  • Cash transfers linked to the sale of counterfeit goods.

Financial investigators/operational experts part of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units try to detect this kind of terrorist financing & additional ones.  Among other things, these experts use indicators to search for terrorist assets across the globe:¹

Egmont Group Indicators

First Image: Niyazz/Shutterstock.com

¹Indicators courtesy of: “FIUs & Terrorist Financing Analysis Report” published by The Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units

Copyright 2015 Fred L. Abrams

Divorce & Hidden Money: Asset Searches In The U.S. For Divorces Brought Outside The U.S. (Part 2)

Posted in Asset Search/Fraud Investigation, Divorce & Child Support, Divorce & Hidden Money, Financial Institutions, Hidden Money
1782 article part 2

This 28th post in the “Divorce & Hidden Money” series mentions the petition Helga Glock filed in the U.S. to collect financial records for her Austrian alimony & asset distribution case against gun mogul Gaston Glock.

Part 1 of the instant post notes that if your divorce is outside of the U.S. you may search for assets your spouse hid in the U.S. by filing a 28 U.S.C. § 1782 petition (hereinafter “the petition”).  You can employ the petition to gather financial evidence possessed by a wide variety of witnesses who reside in the U.S.  In some cases these witnesses can range from a financial institution to a paramour.

Helga Glock employed the petition to search for assets gunmaker Gaston Glock allegedly hid from her during the couple’s divorce in Austria.  Helga Glock filed the petition in a U.S. federal court in Atlanta, Georgia on March 18, 2013.  The petition alleged Gaston Glock started concealing his U.S. &/or other assets.  The petition argued that Helga Glock therefore needed to collect financial records in the U.S. for her alimony & asset distribution case in Austria.

As the pages available here partly demonstrate, Helga Glock used the petition to request financial records from Glock, Inc. & two other businesses apparently related to Gaston Glock. Helga Glock succeeded with the petition/ultimately gathered various financial records because of it.  A federal court of appeals has also ruled that Helga Glock could now use these records in her RICO lawsuit in the U.S. against Gaston Glock.

Image: iQoncept/Shutterstock.com

Copyright 2015 Fred L. Abrams

Divorce & Hidden Money: Asset Searches In The U.S. For Divorces Brought Outside The U.S. (Part 1)

Posted in Asset Search/Fraud Investigation, Bank Search, Divorce & Child Support, Divorce & Hidden Money, Financial Institutions, Hidden Money

Divorce Image 1782 Petition

This 27th post in the “Divorce & Hidden Money” series looks at a way to search for assets in the U.S. when your underlying divorce case is brought outside of the U.S.

If your underlying divorce case is commenced in a foreign country, how do you search for secret bank accounts or other kinds of assets your spouse hid in the U.S?  You may be able to search for assets your spouse hid in the U.S. by filing a petition in U.S. federal court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1782 (hereinafter “the petition”).

By filing the petition you might elicit evidence from bank & other witnesses who reside in the U.S. You could use the petition to gather evidence about any of your spouse’s U.S.-based: bank accounts; stocks & bonds; business entities; real estate; intellectual property licenses; etc. To file a legally sufficient petition, you must satisfy three statutory requirements:

  1. the bank or other witness the subject of your petition must reside or be found in the district where the court sits;
  2. the evidence possessed by the witness will be used in a foreign case;
  3. you must be an interested party.

The 28 U.S.C. § 1782 petition¹ below was granted via an April 12, 2012 order from the U.S. District Court in Delaware.  This petition sought evidence from a witness in Delaware regarding alimony in a Turkish family court case:

(Click On The Translated Copy Of The Petition)

¹The § 1782 petition has been partly sanitized for privacy reasons.

First Image: Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH/Shutterstock.com

Copyright 2015 Fred L. Abrams