On October 8th & 9th in Abuja, Nigeria I will lecture about asset recovery & tracking assets.  I will present 2 lectures to law enforcement agents who work in West Africa. The lectures are called “Whistleblowers, Secret Bank Accounts & Recovering Hidden Assets” & “Asset Recovery Case Studies & Discussion.” I am presenting the lectures during an asset recovery workshop held by The Inter Governmental Action Group Against Money Laundering In West Africa (GIABA).

I. Whistleblowers, Secret Bank Accounts & Recovering Hidden Assets

At this lecture I analyze how vast sums of money can be hidden in a wide variety of cases.  I talk about cases as diverse as narcotrafficking; terrorist financing; public corruption; tax fraud; securities fraud; & divorce.  I also discuss the tools for finding assets hidden offshore.  During the lecture I emphasize how law enforcement agents can employ whistleblowers to try to detect hidden assets. I additionally cover:

II. Asset Recovery Case Studies & Discussion

At “Case Studies & Discussion” I go over how criminals hide their illicit assets offshore.  I also talk about how law enforcement agents try to track illicit assets through: (1) mutual legal assistance treaty (“MLAT”) requests & (2) asset forfeiture laws.

III. My Coursebooks For The Lectures

To review the coursebooks I am giving to those attending my October 8th & 9th lectures, click on these images:

 

 

Image: Lucian3D/Shutterstock.com

Copyright 2018 Fred L. Abrams

Following a money trail as part of your asset searchI. DURING YOUR ASSET SEARCH LOOK FOR A MONEY TRAIL

There is always a money trail you can follow during your asset search. This is true no matter how your adversary hides assets.  Even if your adversary maintains a secret offshore bank account there is a money trail. The money trail at the offshore bank would consist of: account opening documents; monthly account statements; and bank signature cards.  Therefore, as part of your asset search you would seek these documents from the offshore bank.  You might do this by employing a letter rogatory or a compelled consent form.

II. MONEY TRAILS WITH MANY ELEMENTS

Perhaps most important to remember is that a money trail can involve many elements. The suspected money trail in the criminal case of USA v. Tully Lovisa et. al., is thought to include: nominees (i.e. intermediaries/straw persons); shell companies; and post office boxes in New York and the Netherlands. Prosecutors may claim Mr. Tully Lovisa &/or his co-conspirators used these elements to launder the illicit profits of an advance fee scheme.  The July 10, 2018 indictment in the case alleges Mr. Lovisa &/or his co-conspirators mailed phony prize notices to hundreds of thousands of victims.

The notices supposedly indicated the victims won cash prizes ranging from tens of thousands to millions of dollars.  The notices allegedly said the victims could collect the prizes by mailing a $20 or $25 processing fee to the post office boxes in New York or the Netherlands.  According to the indictment, Mr. Lovisa &/or his co-conspirators never paid valuable prizes to the victims and the supposed scheme generated  more than $30 million in illicit profits from the processing fees paid by the victims.

III. THE 2010 LAWSUIT AGAINST MR. LOVISA

In 2010 the Federal Trade Commission sued Mr. Lovisa for an alleged advance fee scam similar to the alleged advance fee scam described at Mr. Lovisa’s July 10, 2018 indictment. The 2010 lawsuit was settled via a stipulation filed with the Court on 4/19/12.  A review of the 2010 lawsuit reveals the suspected money trail in that case could have consisted of shell companies and post office boxes. The 2010 lawsuit claimed Mr. Lovisa had sent personalized mailers in violation of 15 U.S.C. §45 (a), which prohibits unfair or deceptive acts. One of these alleged mailers mentioned by the 2010 lawsuit, is reproduced below.

First image: pickbiz/Shutterstock.com

Copyright 2018 Fred L. Abrams

Hidden Money SearchMy tips for finding hidden money are at Seven Tools For A Successful Asset Search. Hiring a private investigator is also usually a good idea. For additional help in your search for hidden money, you may need some of the following.

A) HANDWRITING EXPERTS

If forged documents were used to hide or steal money, you may need handwriting experts/forensic document examiners to conduct a questioned document examination.  “A Case of Tax Fraud, Identity Theft & Murder” showed how forged letters were used by “Chuck” to steal money from “Mr. Wallace’s” Cayman Island bank account. Chuck forged Mr. Wallace’s signature in 2 letters Chuck sent to “Bob,” a  banker at the Cayman Island bank. By impersonating Mr. Wallace at the 2 forged letters, Chuck was able to drain Mr. Wallace’s Cayman Island bank account. Although I partly sanitized it for privacy reasons, one of the letters Chuck forged is available here.

B) LINK CHARTS

Link charting software enables one to visualize relationships and associations between people and/or things. This visualization can assist you or your private investigators in following a money trail/tracking assets. You may similarly use link charts in court to support your claim that money was hidden from you. A link chart of a money laundering circuit is discussed at the webpage How FINTRAC Builds A Case. Link charts for analyzing telephone toll calls, methamphetamine and cocaine distribution and various crimes are published by RFF Electronics.

C) FORENSIC COMPUTER EXPERTS

Forensic computer experts can assist you if you give them physical access to items thought to store digital evidence. These items can be a computer, mobile phone, flash card from a digital camera, etc. At a forensic computer examination, the experts can use keywords to search for hidden assets; look for databases like Quickbooks; search for logins at banks; and seek data which was supposedly deleted.

Image: Zenzen/Shutterstock.com

Copyright 2018 Fred L. Abrams

A person hiding assets from you could park their money in an offshore bank account & hire an intermediary to be the account’s bank signatory. One website offers this “Bank Nominee Signatories Service” for a cost of about $1000 per year.  This person could additionally title their real estate in the name of shell companies. A person can also hide assets by converting cash into portable valuable commodities like diamonds and smuggle the diamonds offshore.

This kind of scheme is outlined by “Detecting Hidden Assets By Following A Money Trail.”  “Searching For Assets Hidden By Lawyers” examines another way to hide assets.  It explains a person might hide their cash by laundering it through a lawyer. In these kinds of schemes the person hides his/her true beneficial ownership of assets. You may be able to detect  true beneficial ownership & search for assets 3 ways:

I. Collecting human intelligence/informants’ tips is sometimes the only practical way to detect a sophisticated scheme to hide assets.  If there is an informant with knowledge of the hidden assets, the informant might be willing to tip you about the assets.  This informant may be a disgruntled: employee; family member; paramour; etc.

II. Private investigators may help you identify informants & gather leads about hidden assets through surveillance or other surreptitious means. Some investigators however, search for assets illegally or provide spurious information. Ex-Toronto private investigator Elaine White & ex-police detective Cullen Johnson for example, ran an “asset locator” business. They supplied their clients with bogus bank account information.

III. Legal tools can be critically important in searching for assets.  “How Does A Divorcing Spouse Recover Assets Concealed In A Swiss Bank Account?” gives a glimpse of the kinds of tools generally available in many countries across the globe. Among other things, the tools can include serving letters rogatory upon foreign bank witnesses & tipping prosecutors or other governmental authorities.

Image: Farizum Amrod Saad/Shutterstock.com

 Copyright 2017 Fred L. Abrams

11 27 16 Post

2/12/17 Update: It seems that after I published this post on 11/27/16, the Jamaican Major Organized Crime and Anti-Corruption Task Force, (“MOCA”), listed Mr. Peter Sangster as a fugitive. “The people on this list are wanted for serious and or violent crimes” MOCA’s website says. 

Forty-seven-year-old Peter Sangster of Cherry Gardens, Kingston 8, Jamaica, has been a local politician and businessman in Jamaica. After Jamaican authorities subjected telephone carrier Jamus Communications Ltd., (“Jamus”), to a levy, Mr. Sangster allegedly offered to help Jamus by procuring a “waiver” of payment. Mr. Sangster supposedly supplied Jamus with this waiver which was dated 1/9/2013. The waiver appeared to be signed by the then Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller. The Prime Minister’s signature on the waiver is now however, thought to be a forgery.  It also appears that Jamaican law does not provide for a waiver of payment regarding the levy.

In exchange for allegedly supplying Jamus with the waiver, Mr. Sangster may have had Jamus transfer over $150,000 U.S. dollars to 2 bank accounts in the United States. One of the bank accounts is believed to be titled “Sangster Group LLC,” maintained at Bank of America, 515 Ocean Avenue, Brooklyn, New York. The other bank account was also at Bank of America and was thought to be titled “Peter and Tania Sangster.” Based on these allegations, MOCA investigated Mr. Sangster to determine whether he committed a forgery and larceny.

MOCA seemed to search for assets related to Mr. Sangster. MOCA sought corporate & banking records for “Sangster Group LLC.” MOCA similarly sought records for the “Peter and Tania Sangster” Bank of America account. On 10/6/16 a court in Delaware issued an order on behalf of MOCA, permitting a prosecutor to collect these records. The order authorized the prosecutor to gather the records listed on pp. 7-11 at the following letter rogatory/legal assistance request from Jamaica:¹

Letter Rogatory P Sangster
To Read The Letter Rogatory, Click On The Image Above

¹The letter rogatory/legal assistance request has been partly sanitized for privacy reasons.

First Image: Light And Dark Studio/Shutterstock.com

(Edited 2/12/17)

Copyright 2016 Fred L. Abrams

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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.

Continue Reading Private Investigators: An Asset Search Via Data Brokers Like IDI,Inc.

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

Production Request
You might be able to access your adversary’s passport; credit card statements & phone records via a production request.

If you are a divorcing spouse, judgment creditor or other litigant, how do you conclusively establish whether or not assets have been hidden from you? You can sometimes reasonably determine this by using legal tools to search for assets. In a pending litigation, these tools might include: depositions; subpoenas; interrogatories; production requests; etc.

Below is part of a production request in the hypothetical case of “JOHN DOE.” The production request seeks access to JOHN DOE’s passport; credit cards; phone records; etc. By analyzing this kind of material one might possibly detect secret offshore bank accounts or other hidden assets.

PRODUCTION REQUEST

1.     JOHN DOE’s original passport of which FRED L. ABRAMS, ESQ. (or his representative), may possess for a period of not more than 45 minutes to photocopy and return to JOHN DOE.

2.     All paid and unpaid invoices from creditors arising from obligations incurred by JOHN DOE for the period January 1, 2011 to present.

3.     All of JOHN DOE’s telephone records, (including cell phone records), for the period of January 1, 2011 to date.

4.     Receipts and copies of airplane tickets for all air flights JOHN DOE traveled, during January 1, 2011 up to the present date.

5.     All frequent flyer miles statements relating to any air flights JOHN DOE traveled, during January 1, 2011 up to the present date.

6.     Receipts or documents relating to all hotel accommodations JOHN DOE paid for or hotels JOHN DOE stayed at anytime during the period of January 1, 2011 to the present.

7.     All records and documents relating to any transaction entered into on or after January 1, 2011 in which JOHN DOE presently has or will have a financial interest or from which JOHN DOE has received or will receive compensation of any nature.

8.     All documents related to any transaction since January 1, 2011, entered into by another person or entity for the benefit in whole or in part, of JOHN DOE.

9.     All documents showing the amount, purpose or source of all payments over $5,000.00 made since January 1, 2011, to, by or for the benefit of JOHN DOE.

10.  Copies of all of JOHN DOE’s current and previous wills and other estate planning documents. Continue Reading Using A Production Request In Your Asset Search

Following A Money Trail

High net worth divorcing spouses, kleptocrats, bankruptcy debtors, judgment debtors, etc., can easily conceal their beneficially owned assets by utilizing Nominee Incorporation Services (“NIS”). Pages 63-64 of “The 2007 National Money Laundering Strategy” essentially explained that individuals may use NIS in schemes to hide assets through money laundering. Individuals sometimes hire a NIS to open secret bank accounts & form non-transparent shell companies. Page 64 of The 2007 National Money Laundering Strategy said “[t]he FBI believes that U.S. shell companies and bank accounts arranged by certain NIS firms are being used to launder as much as $36 billion a year from the former Soviet Union. It is not clear whether these NIS firms are complicit in the money laundering abuse.

An apparent NIS is Capital Asset, Inc. One of its webpages recommends forming companies in Nevada, Wyoming or Delaware. It presumably makes this recommendation because Nevada, Wyoming & Delaware have little or no reporting requirements concerning a company’s shareholders, managers, etc. Someone who wants to hide assets can form a non-transparent shell company in these states & use the shell company to open a bank account at a financial institution in an offshore tax haven. During a bank or asset search, this bank account may be especially difficult to detect because it is titled in the name of the non-transparent shell company.

Another Capital Asset, Inc. wepage asserts:

We use encrypted software, mobile memory sticks, and we back up any information in countries outside the U.S.  There are no paper statements, no debit cards, and all of the accounts are in the names of an IBC [International Business Corporation], just exactly the way Microsoft does it. We imitate in every detail what multinational companies do when they open an offshore account.  Most of our clients use a nominee- they are not officers, directors, or shareholders of the IBC. However, as signatory or beneficial owner of an offshore account, you need to understand there are heavy tax reporting requirements.

Image: jesadaphorn/Shutterstock.com

Copyright 2012-2016 Fred L. Abrams

Look Before Leap Image
Look before you leap into your asset search by taking a multifaceted approach.

Red Flags For An Asset Search” lists the common methods for concealing assets including the use of shell companies; offshore bank accounts; sham trusts; etc. To successfully search for assets hidden by these methods, a multifaceted approach is often necessary. You may need to determine beneficial ownership; & look for laundered assets; & employ letters rogatory; & follow the other suggestions outlined by “7 Tips For A Successful Asset Search.”  If you rely on just one of these approaches, you might not gather enough evidence to demonstrate to a court that assets were hidden from you. For example, “7 Tips For A Successful Asset Search” says you might use letters rogatory¹ to collect information from witnesses residing offshore.

Under certain conditions, a letter rogatory can be invaluable in a search for evidence of a secret offshore bank account. Since letters rogatory do not work 100% of the time, it is best to take a multifaceted approach in your asset search.  One letter rogatory which apparently did not work, was filed at In re Application of Victor Mikhaylovich Pinchuk, U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming, Docket No. 13-cv-00251.  Ukrainian billionaire Mr. Pinchuk used the letter rogatory to try to get documentary evidence about assets owned by Ferrost LLC (“Ferrost“), a business entity in Wyoming. Mr. Pinchuk’s court papers claimed he needed this evidence because his business partners had allegedly misappropriated assets. The court papers also alleged “Pinchuk should have been offered an opportunity to participate in [the ownership of] Ferrost or its assets…

Mr. Pinchuk intended to use any evidence obtained about Ferrost, at a London arbitration & at legal proceedings in Cypress. On May 7, 2014, the federal court in Wyoming issued an Order directing Ferrost to comply with Mr. Pinchuk’s subpoena. The subpoena requested documents relating to: assets owned by Ferrost; how Ferrost was capitalized; the identities of Ferrost’s shareholders; etc. At a May 20, 2014 affidavit, Ferrost alleged it possessed no business records in the United States. Ferrost therefore only supplied Mr. Pinchuk with organizational documents Ferrost had filed with the Wyoming Secretary of State. Despite Mr. Pinchuk’s letter rogatory & the Court’s May 7, 2014 Order, Mr. Pinchuk was apparently unable to gather information about assets owned by Ferrost.

¹”Preparation of Letters Rogatory” courtesy of U.S. Department of State.

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Copyright 2016 Fred L. Abrams