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.

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Copyright 2018 Fred L. Abrams

An Asset Search For Tax FraudA scheme to hide assets may start out with the primary goal of placing assets beyond your reach. The scheme may then develop the secondary goal of hiding assets from tax authorities/committing a tax fraud. To increase your chances of a successful asset search, you should therefore look for indicators of tax fraud. A good list of the indicators is published by the IRS at IRM 25.1.2.3, Fraud Handbook – Indicators of Fraud.

Just one indicator listed at the Fraud Handbook is “deposits into bank accounts under nominee names.” This means secretly depositing money into bank accounts titled in the names of  intermediaries (i.e. nominees).  “Red Flags & The IRS Search For Attorney Memmott’s Assets” analyzes the tax fraud case against the now-disbarred California attorney Orion Memmott. Prosecutors accused Mr. Memmott of hiding assets from the IRS by titling real estate & bank accounts in the names of nominees.

In USA v. Beverely, Docket No 17−cr−60093, prosecutors similarly accused Timothy J. Beverley of hiding assets from the IRS.  Prosecutors claimed Mr. Beverley of Pompano Beach, Florida failed to report to the IRS $2.2 million he allegedly stole from his employer.  Page 4 ¶14 (b) of Mr. Beverley’s superseding indictment said Mr. Beverley hid his stolen money in bank accounts titled in the names of nominees. Mr. Beverley supposedly committed the theft & alleged tax fraud while on supervised release from his earlier money laundering case.  In the laundering case, prosecutors accused Mr. Beverley of hiding the illicit proceeds of a bank fraud. Mr. Beverley apparently hid the proceeds of the bank fraud by washing them through bank accounts belonging to the NASCAR team Mr. Beverley once owned—Tyler Jet Motorsports.

Copyright 2018 Fred L. Abrams

Asset Searches in the U.S.
This post says you can sometimes pursue asset searches in the U.S. because of your foreign lawsuit.

You may be able to use 28 U.S.C. § 1782 to perform asset searches connected to your foreign: divorce; dispute over a will; financial fraud claim; etc. This is true because pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1782, the U.S. District Court can allow you to serve subpoenas in the U.S. in furtherance of lawsuits in a foreign land.  You would serve these subpoenas on U.S.-based witnesses with knowledge of the assets. One subpoena based on 28 U.S.C. § 1782 is supplied at my October 18, 2017 post “Asset Searches In the U.S. Because of Lawsuits Outside The U.S.”  Based on 28 U.S.C. § 1782, the U.S. District Court also allowed service of a subpoena upon J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, N.A. in New York City.  On January 3, 2018 the U.S. District Court issued its Order authorizing issuance of this subpoena in the case known as In Re Application of Shanghai Xiaosheng Industrial Investment Co. LTD.

According to court filings, Shanghai Xiaosheng Industrial Investment Co. LTD., (“Shanghai”), needs evidence from J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, N.A. to frame a lawsuit it will file in China against 9th Base Investment Limited (“9th Base”).  Shanghai was reportedly defrauded out of more than $31 million US dollars by 9th Base.  On or about October 12, 2015 Shanghai allegedly transferred yen valued at $31 million US dollars out of China into 9th Base’s New York bank account at J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, N.A.  Shanghai apparently transferred the $31 million as part of a deal in which Shanghai was suppose to eventually acquire 28.57% of Kailai Oil & Gas Holdings, Ltd., which develops oil & gas in Papua, Indonesia. Shanghai alleged that 9th Base fraudulently induced Shanghai to transfer the $31 million &/or that 9th Base was unjustly enriched by the $31 million dollars. To learn more about Shanghai’s allegations against 9th Base, read the December 20, 2017 Declaration of Shen Jinrong available below.

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Copyright 2018 Fred L. Abrams

Searching for an adversary’s hidden assets can be like tracking a shell-game-operator.  In USA v. Khalili for instance, Mr. Dan Farhad Khalili was accused of hiding assets & undeclared revenue from the IRS for 15 years at 5 offshore banks. The offshore banks were located in Switzerland & Israel. Although on 4/27/11 Mr. Khalili applied for the IRS’ Voluntary Disclosure Program, the IRS found him ineligible for it. Mr. Khalili ultimately pleaded guilty to failing to file U.S. Department of Treasury Reports of Foreign Bank & Financial Accounts. On 4/25/17 Mr. Khalili was sentenced to 1 year & 1 day of prison. When you search for assets hidden through sophisticated schemes similar to the one Mr. Khalili was accused of, it may help to keep 3 goals in mind. These goals are to detect the paper trails, look for compartmentalization & seek transparency.

I. Detect The Paper Trails

One way your adversary may hide the paper trail of an offshore bank account is to open an offshore post office box. Your adversary could then have the offshore bank send monthly bank account statements & other documents to the offshore post office box. By maintaining these banking documents offshore, your adversary reduces the risk that you; domestic tax authorities; or anyone else; will detect the secret offshore bank account.

II. Look For Compartmentalization

A former intelligence officer I knew kept 1 cellular phone for incoming calls & another for outgoing calls. By compartmentalizing incoming & outgoing calls, the former intelligence officer was trying to hamper any investigation of his telephone toll records. Your adversary may compartmentalize his/her financial activities in a scheme to hide assets from you. For more information read my post “Compartmentalization & An Asset Search.”

III. Seek Transparency

By eliminating paper trails & compartmentalizing, your adversary can make his/her financial activities nontransparent. Your adversary can also make financial activities nontransparent via: fraudulent asset transfers; bulk-cash smuggling; art assets & cultural heritage property; diamonds or other portable valuable commodities; etc. These common concealment methods are outlined at “Red Flags For An Asset Search.”

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Copyright 2017 Fred L. Abrams

In the criminal case against Robert Bandfield, the IRS & SEC searched for assets laundered offshore. These assets were the proceeds of stock pump & dump schemes.  The illicit proceeds of the pump & dump schemes were more than $250 million. The $250 million was believed to be hidden by money laundering carried out by Mr. Robert Bandfield & his co-conspirators.

According to a 2/6/17 press release, Mr. Bandfield was the “architect of [an] offshore fraud haven.” Mr. Bandfield seems to have owned 2 nominee incorporation services, which established & sold shell companies. The 2 nominee incorporation services formed offshore shell companies believed to have helped launder the $250 million.

Red flags Mr. Bandfield & his co-conspirators allegedly hid the $250 million included their suspected misuse of:

After Mr. Bandfield’s 9/5/14 indictment by a grand jury sitting in Brooklyn, N.Y., Mr. Bandfiled was arrested on 9/9/14 at the airport in Miami, Florida. The indictment charged Mr. Bandfield & others with conspiracy to commit securities fraud; conspiracy to defraud the U.S. via tax fraud; & money laundering conspiracy. On 2/6/17 Mr. Bandfield was sentenced to 72 months imprisonment.  The sentence was based on Mr. Bandfield’s guilty plea to the money laundering conspiracy charged by his second superseding indictment available here.

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Copyright 2017 Fred L. Abrams

A person who resides & is sued out of the U.S. may hide assets in the U.S. This person could hide assets by secretly: purchasing real estate in the U.S.; opening bank accounts in the U.S.; titling property in the names of shell companies formed in the U.S.; etc. How can you search for assets which are hidden in the U.S.? If the hidden assets are connected to a lawsuit outside the U.S., (& you are an interested person in this lawsuit), you might subpoena witnesses in the U.S.

You would try to collect evidence about the hidden assets by issuing subpoenas to witnesses who know about the assets. These witnesses can be: banks;  gatekeepers like lawyers & accountants; businesses which establish shell companies (i.e. nominee incorporation services); relatives of the person hiding assets; etc. You may apply for subpoenas pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1782 in the U.S. District Court which possesses personal jurisdiction over the witnesses; and as set forth at Fed.R.Civ.P. 45. At your application filed in the U.S. District Court, you would also show you need to subpoena the witnesses because of your lawsuit outside the U.S.

In the Ex-Parte Application of June Wu, Ms. Wu a Taiwanese national, sought permission from the U.S. District Court in Delaware to issue subpoenas under 28 U.S.C. §1782. Ms. Wu apparently deposited $3 million into a bank account in Taiwan for a prospective investment in the Delaware company Tagboard, Inc.  Ms. Wu’s $3 million was then allegedly embezzled out of Taiwan & supposedly transferred to Tagboard, Inc’s bank account in the U.S. At its 9/13/17 Order, the U.S. District Court authorized Ms. Wu’s attorney to serve subpoenas about the $3 million.  The Order permits Ms. Wu’s attorney to elicit evidence by using subpoenas including this one:

(Click On The Image To View The Complete Subpoena)

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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.

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 Copyright 2017 Fred L. Abrams

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.”

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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.

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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.

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Copyright 2017 Fred L. Abrams