Beneficial Ownership Post
Spouses can hide assets through layering & fraudulent transfers, this 35th Post in the “Divorce & Hidden Money” series says.

According to The Financial Action Task Force anti-money laundering group:

Beneficial owner refers to the natural person(s) who ultimately owns or controls a customer and/or the natural person on whose behalf a transaction is being conducted. It also includes those persons who exercise ultimate effective control over a legal person or arrangement. Glossary of the FATF Recommendations, Web. July 10, 2017.

A divorcing spouse may conceal his/her beneficial ownership of community property by titling: bank accounts; real estateart; etc. in the name of an intermediary (i.e. a nominee). The divorcing spouse secretly controls these assets while the nominee appears to own them. The nominee acts as a protective layer which hides the divorcing spouse’s beneficial ownership of assets.

Protective layers can be comprised of: nominees; offshore bank accounts; multiple jurisdictions; shell companies; trusts; & gatekeepers. The layering is the first clue a divorcing spouse could be concealing beneficially owned assets. The second clue a divorcing spouse is concealing assets would be the divorcing spouse’s fraudulent transfers. To detect fraudulent transfers look for the badges of fraud, as more fully set forth at “An Asset Search When Money Is Hidden Offshore.”

Image: kentoh/Shutterstock.com

Copyright 2017 Fred L. Abrams

Money Laundering Typology Post

One way to learn how to search for hidden assets is to read “A Laundry List For An Asset Search.” Another way is to study money laundering typologies. Money laundering typologies are used by law enforcement and regulators to develop countermeasures against emerging criminal trends. “100 Cases from the Egmont Group” contains a wide variety of money laundering typologies.¹ Although “100 Cases from the Egmont Group” arises from data collected during the 1990s, it is still relevant today. “100 Cases from the Egmont Group” describes these methods for concealing assets:

  • Concealment within existing business structures
  • Misuse of legitimate businesses
  • Use of false identities, documents or straw men
  • Exploiting international jurisdictional issues
  • Use of anonymous asset types

Below is the money laundering typology “Example B: Limited edition jewellery.”² It is about an agent who participated in an auction for a diamond necklace. The agent tried to conceal monies from suspected frauds by using multiple jurisdictions; offshore bank accounts & a portable valuable commodity—a diamond necklace.

Example B Limited editon jewellery

¹”100 Cases From The Egmont Group” courtesy of The Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units.

²“Example B: Limited edition jewellery” courtesy of The Guernsey Financial Services Commission.

First Image: studiostoks/Shutterstock.com

Copyright 2017 Fred L. Abrams

Back to Back Loan Image

Money Laundering, Marital Assets & Divorce was my first Asset Search Blog post highlighting back-to-back loans (i.e. a fully collateralized loan in which the borrower and the lender are one and the same). That post mentioned a divorcing husband who hid millions from his wife and the IRS, by claiming he was indebted because of an arm’s length business loan. The husband’s claim about owing money to an arm’s length lender was false, as the loan was back-to-back. In other words, the husband hid millions by secretly arranging to be both the borrower and lender of the loan; and by pretending to be in debt.

Federal prosecutors similarly discussed back–to-back loans in their tax fraud case against Los Angeles, California businessman Masud Sarshar. According to prosecutors, Mr. Sarshar hid tens of millions of dollars from the IRS by using two back-to-back loans and offshore bank accounts in Israel and Hong Kong. Mr. Sarshar supposedly maintained the offshore bank accounts in the names of intermediaries (i.e. nominees). Prosecutors also said an Israeli banker delivered offshore bank account statements to Mr. Sarshar by smuggling them into the U.S. on a USB drive hidden in a necklace.

To avoid being flagged as an American by the offshore banks, Mr. Sarshar is believed to have used Israeli and Iranian passports to open his offshore accounts. When Mr. Sarshar mentioned his offshore accounts during conversations with his Israeli bankers, Mr. Sarshar also reportedly spoke in code. On 3/13/17 Mr. Sarshar was sentenced to 24 months in prison for conspiring to defraud the U.S. and for seeking to impair/impede administration of internal revenue laws. Mr. Sarshar’s 8/1/16 plea agreement can be read here.

Image: Ionut Catalin Parvu/Shutterstock.com

Copyright 2017 Fred L. Abrams

3 HInts About Asset Searches

A divorcing spouse; judgment creditor; bankruptcy creditor; or a beneficiary under a trust or will; may face an adversary hiding assets through nominees (i.e. intermediaries). See cf., Fourth Inv. LP v. United States, 720 F.3d 1058, 1070 (9th Cir. 2013) (six-part test for nominee ownership applied to tax lien case). An adversary can hide real estate, automobiles, jewelry; and offshore bank accounts by titling them in the names of nominees. Nominees are easily accessed through nominee incorporation services like the one at the “Anonymous Panama Corporation” webpage.

The “Anonymous Panama Corporation” webpage can be used to form a Panamanian shell company with “nominee directors.” The initial fee for this service is $1200. The webpage suggests that one can “save taxes or protect…assets” by forming a Panamanian shell company:

[Y]our personal information will not be available in any government records, but [sic] still maintain complete control over your corporation. The Nominee Directors will not have control over your corporation and can be replaced at any time.

This type of corporation is a good choice if your objective is to save taxes or protect your assets. The actual owner of this corporation is not registered in public records.

Shell companies are not the only things that can be utilized as nominees. Lawyers; accountants; bankers; financial advisors; paramours; family members and trusts can be nominees. In the criminal prosecution called USA v. James S. Faller II, Case #: 13−cr−00029, the Court discussed how a nominee trust could be part of a scheme to hide assets from the IRS. Pages 13-14 of the Court’s 4/30/15 Memorandum Opinion and Order highlighted Mr. Faller’s alleged misuse of nominees.

Mr. Faller from Russell Springs, Kentucky, relied on “nominee names” to evade taxes, an IRS Special Agent’s affidavit claimed at ¶68. Prosecutors argued Mr. Faller evaded taxes by titling his home and bank account in the name of a trust believed to be Mr. Faller’s nominee. Mr. Faller was convicted of tax fraud and on 1/29/16 Mr. Faller was sentenced to 36 months’ imprisonment. Although Mr. Faller appealed his conviction, the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the conviction at a 1/10/17 Opinion.

Image: Robert Kneschke/Shutterstock.com

Copyright 2017 Fred L. Abrams

12 8 16 Post
This 34th post in the “Divorce & Hidden Money” series highlights ways assets may be hidden in a money laundering circuit.

The November 30th New York Times Magazine article “How To Hide $400 Million” described the divorce between Sarah Pursglove & Finnish internet tycoon Robert Oesterlund. A document from Mr. Oesterlund’s lender allegedly indicated Mr. Oesterlund’s net worth was $400 million, “How To Hide $400 Million” said. This article also said Mr. Oesterlund claimed during the divorce that the ‘net family property’ was only worth a few million dollars.

Ms. Pursglove however, did not believe this and tried to search for assets reportedly hidden by Mr. Oesterlund. Based on “How To Hide $400 Million,” Mr. Oesterlund was an ultra-high-net-worth spouse who allegedly hid assets through:

  1. gatekeepers (such as lawyers & bankers);
  2. multiple jurisdictions;
  3. offshore bank accounts;
  4. shell companies;
  5. & trusts.

These can all be used as laundering links which wash assets in a money laundering circuit. A money laundering circuit is shown at a chart on a webpage from FINTRAC, a Canadian financial intelligence unit. An ultra-high-net-worth spouse may place assets into a laundering circuit through: structuring bank deposits; money mules/bulk-cash smuggling; diamonds or other portable valuable commodities; false invoicing schemes (i.e. trade-based laundering); wire transfers; etc. How do you perform an asset search when these methods are used to hide assets? Click here for seven tips.

Image: red mango/Shutterstock.com

Copyright 2016 Fred L. Abrams

10 26 16 Post

If you are litigating against an adversary who is hiding assets from you, subpoenaing your adversary’s credit card statements might help you track the hidden assets. As my post “Secreting Assets Without A Border Trace” suggests, expenses listed at a credit card statement may lead you to your adversary’s assets. “Secreting Assets Without A Border Trace” is about tracking a Ponzi schemer’s illicit assets. The Ponzi schemer in that post could have: converted cash into diamonds; parked the diamonds in a Swiss security box (i.e. safe deposit box); and opened a secret bank account in Luxembourg.

The subpoena available below has language you can include at a subpoena for credit card records. The subpoena was issued to American Express by the Chapter 7 trustee in Michael Mastro’s bankruptcy case.  Along with credit card statements, the subpoena requested “[c]opies of all checks, money orders, electronic transfer records, and other documents showing the source and manner of each [credit card] payment…” Some of my other posts discussing subpoenas are “An Asset Search of A Lawyer Employed To Conceal Cash” & “Eliciting Evidence From Foreign Bank Witnesses.

American Express Subpoena

Image of torn paper & word subpoena: arfa adam/Shutterstock.com

Copyright 2016 Fred L. Abrams

The instant post mentions hiding assets through: a lawyer; offshore bank accounts; etc. It is the 34th post at the "Divorce & Hidden Money" series.
The instant post mentions hiding assets through a lawyer; offshore bank accounts; etc. It is the 33rd post at the “Divorce & Hidden Money” series.

Ohio lawyer David Keith Roland was recently disbarred for using a Swiss bank account in a scheme to help a divorcing wife hide marital assets from her divorcing husband. The divorcing wife in this alleged scheme was chiropractor Denise M. Carradine of Boardman, Ohio. Mr. Roland had represented Ms. Carradine in a divorce action commenced by Ms. Carradine’s then husband, Eric Martin.

As part of the alleged scheme to hide marital assets from Mr. Martin, Ms. Carradine reportedly supplied Mr. Roland with $854,261.10. The Ohio Supreme Court Decision disbarring Mr. Roland said Ms. Carradine had “structured” payments of this money to Mr. Roland “to avoid detection under banking laws.” Mr. Roland deposited the $854,261.10 into two client trust accounts. Mr. Roland then wire transferred $814,105.96 of the $854,261.10, into a bank account at Maerki Baumann & Co. in Zürich, Switzerland.

This Swiss bank account may have been a nominee bank account, (i.e. an account titled in the name of an intermediary), beneficially owned by Ms. Carradine. Some of the money from the Swiss bank account was also transferred into a bank account located in the Turks & Caicos Islands. Based upon the foregoing, Mr. Roland’s & Ms. Carradine’s alleged scheme to conceal marital assets might have involved: structuring; a gatekeeper/lawyer; nominee bank accounts; multiple jurisdictions; & offshore banks.

Illustration: ollo/Shutterstock.com

Copyright 2016 Fred L. Abrams

Zinnel Post
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:

  1. lawyers;
  2. shell companies;
  3. a business associate who Mr. Zinnel employed as his nominee/intermediary;
  4. nominee bank account[s] (i.e. accounts maintained in the name of others).

On March 4, 2014 Mr. Zinnel was sentenced to 17 years & 8 months of prison for bankruptcy fraud & money laundering. This case is perhaps best summarized by these two sentences prosecutors wrote at a June 14, 2013 court filing:

The Government’s theory of this case is that Defendant Zinnel wanted to commit bankruptcy fraud and money laundering for reasons of greed and spite. Zinnel loved money and hated his ex-wife [Michelle Zinnel]. USA v. Zinnel, Gov’t Opposition Paper filed 6/14/13, Docket No. 179, at p. 1.

Image:  Nikolai Moiseenko/Shutterstock.com

Copyright 2016 Fred L. Abrams

Trade-Based Laundering Photo

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).

Pages 9-20 of the June 2006 report also provide 12 case studies showing how trade-based money laundering can be used to conceal one’s assets. The August 24, 2007 plea agreement of Gene Haas might describe another case of trade-based money laundering. Mr. Haas entered this plea agreement after his arrest on June 19, 2006 for suspected tax fraud. Attachment A at the plea agreement says the Enmark Aerospace and Supermill companies had provided Mr. Haas with invoices for fictitious purchases.

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.

¹ See p.4 at “Trade-Based Money Laundering,” Copyright © FATF/OECD. All rights reserved.

Image: Nomad_Soul/Shutterstock.com

Copyright 2007-2016 Fred L. Abrams

Your Search For Assets Hidden Offshore

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.

²“Obtaining Foreign Evidence Outside of The Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty Process,” U.S. Attorneys’ Bulletin March 2007, is supplied courtesy of the Executive Office for United States Attorneys.

Image of offshore banking & tax haven concept: ChameleonsEye/Shutterstock.com

Copyright 2016 Fred L. Abrams