This video¹ discusses ways assets can be concealed via money laundering.  As the video observes, billions are thought to be laundered worldwide & “laundering takes place within our everyday world of routine business transactions.”

Looking for laundered assets can be critical to a successful asset search, my last post says

Photo Of A Red Flag

If a divorcing spouse hides marital assets there usually are red flags.  Red flags are also often found when assets have been hidden by tax fraudsters, Ponzi schemers, bankruptcy debtors, money launderers & narco-traffickers.  This 16th post in the “Divorce & Hidden Money ” series examines the red flags.

Red flags indicating assets might have

This post describes a case in which illicit drug monies were concealed offshore and laundered via a Cayman Island bank account.  The case is also about tax fraud; identity theft and a murder.   I published the post earlier at the Asset Search Blog and have used the post as a handout at many of my speaking engagements.  It is an example of how financial fraudsters can operate.  Some of the facts below have been changed/sanitized for privacy reasons.  The following occurred over a four month period during 2002:

TAX FRAUD

As part of his tax fraud, “Mr. Wallace” contacted a Cayman Island bank by mail in order to open a personal account with it.  He mailed account opening documents to it which included a copy of his U.S. passport and also supplied the names of references. According to these documents, Mr. Wallace lived in Miami and was a real estate developer.  Based upon all of the foregoing, the Cayman Island bank opened Mr. Wallace’s personal account with a “O” balance.  Just six days later however, bank “X” in Panama wired $6.3 million to Mr. Wallace’s Cayman account without any mention of the remitter.

Mr. Wallace then went on a business trip to Central America for several months; so he rented his Miami home to “Chuck”.  Although Mr. Wallace hadn’t known at the time, Chuck was a small-time crook.  In fact, soon after Chuck took possession of Mr. Wallace’s home, Chuck started stealing Mr. Wallace’s mail.  One of the letters Chuck had stolen was written by “Bob”, a personal banker from the Cayman Island bank where Mr. Wallace maintained his account.  Bob had written to Mr. Wallace about a lucrative investment opportunity.

THE IDENTITY THEFT & MURDER

Surmising from Bob’s letter that Mr. Wallace had a sizable bank account, Chuck wrote to Bob pretending to be Mr. Wallace.  As the sanitized copy of Chuck’s First Letter partly demonstrates, Chuck had assumed Mr. Wallace’s identity in that particular letter by forging Mr. Wallace’s signature.  To comfort Bob, Chuck’s First Letter had also asked Bob for the minimum balance required to keep Mr. Wallace’s account open. Chuck’s “softening up” letter further suggested to Bob that Mr. Wallace’s funds might soon be needed “at very short notice” for an alleged real estate deal in Mexico.  In the sanitized copy of Chuck’s Second Letter, Chuck again pretended to be Mr. Wallace as he wrote to Bob at the Cayman Island bank.  In his Second Letter, Chuck directed the wire transfer of Mr. Wallace’s funds from the Cayman Island bank to Chuck’s own bank account in Mexico.
Continue Reading A Case of Tax Fraud, Identity Theft & Murder

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The Rembrandt Shown Above Can Be Hidden Easily.  It Was Recovered By U.S. Troops During WWII in Munich, Germany.

Divorcing spouses, debtors, determined criminals or others may hide and secretly transfer art assets and cultural heritage property. The article below was written by Leila Amineddoleh of Amineddoleh & Associates LLC, where she specializes in art, cultural heritage, and intellectual property law. Ms. Amineddoleh teaches International Art & Cultural Heritage Law at Fordham University School of Law and St. John’s University School of Law. Her article explains that art and cultural heritage property can be used to conceal assets in a variety of ways.  The article covers these topics:

I.   Forgeries, Illicit Imports & Smuggling
II.  Valuating Art In A Divorce
III. Art Transfers By Terrorists & Other Criminals
IV. Suing Over Art

LEGAL CONSIDERATIONS FOR RECOVERING ART ASSETS & CULTURAL HERITAGE PROPERTY

By Leila Amineddoleh, Esq.

Not only are art and antiquities beautiful, fascinating, and rich in cultural significance, but they can be great investments. The growing interest in the art world has introduced a new wave of investment products; entire companies have developed in the field of art investment consultation, using art as an alternative investment type. Some economists even claim that art is more secure than stocks, citing the fact that art outperforms the stock market.[1] Since the Second World War, groups of wealthy investors purchased artwork during unstable economic periods. And as with other asset classes, art and antiquities can be used as vehicles for hiding assets.

I.  FORGERIES, ILLICIT IMPORTS & SMUGGLING

One of the most frustrating aspects of art and antiquities collecting relates to valuation. There is a vast disparity between values for authentic versus forged objects. For example, where a convincing copy of a Jackson Pollock may sell for a few thousand dollars, an authentic work by the Abstract expressionist painter may sell for up to $50 million. And as the past couple decades have demonstrated, it can be difficult to ascertain which works are by the hand of a purported artist versus a talented art forger. (This difficulty recently became headline news as art investors sued the well-known Knoedler Gallery for selling multi-million dollar forgeries.[2])

These same complications arise with antiquities. It is not only difficult to determine whether an artifact is authentic, but it can be challenging to determine its origin. Smugglers bring antiquities into the US, but lie about the origin of the objects. Illicit importing has been committed in ingenious ways: some smugglers will cover an authentic antiquity in a plastic coating to make the object appear to be a cheap tourist toy; once the object has passed through customs, the plastic coating is removed and the valuable cultural object is revealed.[3] Other smugglers don’t even disguise the works, they simply claim that ancient artifacts are modern-day trinkets bought while abroad. Another way that people misrepresent objects relates to the find spot (the location where an artifact was excavated). By lying about the object’s origin, smugglers conceal valuable information regarding the work’s creation, greatly affecting the value and legality of a work. (For example, objects from Syria have been recently scrutinized for fear that looted artifacts enter the US and fuel the market for illicit objects. So smugglers now claim that these looted works are from other areas of the Middle East, thereby avoiding detection by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.)
Continue Reading Recovering Art Assets & Cultural Heritage Property

In the Breaking Bad television series, Walter White hid profits from his illegal manufacture of methamphetamine.  He hid illicit drug profits in a crawl space under his house, as the video above partly reveals.  Walter and his wife Skyler also laundered money through the A1A Car Wash.  Walter’s partner in crime, (Breaking Bad’s Jesse Pinkman),

This is the third post in the “Divorce & Hidden Money” series:

One divorcing wife explained to me that she believed her husband had hidden money in offshore bank accounts.  This divorcing wife found a box her husband inadvertently left  in the basement after he moved out of their marital residence.  The box had an account opening application from one offshore bank and brochures from others.

Another divorcing wife found some correspondence at the family’s summer home.  The correspondence  was between her husband and the foreign attorney who helped establish the husband’s secret offshore bank accounts.  A different divorcing wife found a scrap of paper on which her husband had scrawled the name of a Swiss banker and a Swiss financial account number.

The above-described matters raised the same question, how could these husbands secretly transfer funds across international borders into offshore bank accounts?  Like narco-traffickers, tax evaders, terrorist financiers and others, divorcing spouses may use the following methods to secretly transfer assets:

Bulk Cash Smuggling– Determined criminals routinely smuggle cash through porous borders.  Illicit cash couriers for instance, travel through Mexico-U.S. border crossings on behalf of  Mexican drug cartels.  German tax cheats are also known to smuggle undeclared cash into Liechtenstein by stashing the cash in luggage and then driving with it across the German-Liechtenstein border.

Portable Valuable Commodities Like Diamonds & Jewelry– After his arrest, Bernard Madoff seemingly tried to transfer watches, cufflinks and other jewelry worth more than $1 million.  Madoff attempted to mail these items to friends and relatives.  Bradley Birkenfeld the whistleblower, is believed to have similarly smuggled diamonds in a tube of toothpaste while on a jet flying across U.S.-Swiss borders.


Continue Reading Divorce & Hidden Money: Four Ways Assets Can Be Secretly Transferred

Throughout its five seasons, Breaking Bad highlighted the ways narco-trafficker Walter White and his co-conspirators hid the illicit proceeds of their made-for-TV crimes.  Breaking Bad could even be considered a case study of how determined criminals and others hide assets.  For example, at Problem Dog, Season 4, Episode 7, Walter and his wife Skyler faced the dilemma of trying to conceal $7 million in drug profits, by laundering it through their A1A Car Wash.

During Mandala, Season 2, Episode 11, Skyler’s boss Ted Beneke admitted to hiding nearly $1 million in undeclared revenue from the IRS.  In furtherance of this tax fraud, Ted had cooked the books of his company, Beneke Fabricators.  At Caballo Sin Nombre, Season 3, Episode 2,  Walter’s partner Jesse Pinkman seemingly washed $400,000 through the cash purchase of his parent’s home.  In Gliding Over All, Season 5, Episode 8, Skyler disclosed she rented a storage unit to conceal a hoard of cash.  At the end of Crawl Space, Season 4, Episode 11, Walter was also shown next to some illicit cash he had earlier secreted beneath his house:


Continue Reading How Walter White Could Take His Money To A Swiss Bank

As a DEA Special Agent, Donnie worked in Bolivia, Puerto Rico and Peru.  He had also been a liaison with the Mexican Federal Judicial Police.  After retiring from the DEA, Donnie taught Iraqi border policeman a variety of things, including how to detect cash and drugs hidden through smuggling.  Through his work, Donnie became highly

A low-cost asset search; two ex-JP Morgan bankers accused of concealing trading losses; and Rafael Caro Quintero:

The article “Wirapol Sukphol, Jet-Set Buddhist Monk Shocks Thailand With Religious Scandal” discusses a Buddhist monk in Thailand suspected of misappropriating charitable donations to support his life of luxury.  This article indicates that the now former monk Wirapol Sukphol, may have collected charitable donations by swindling donors, to whom he reportedly once said: