We all know that compared to money hidden at domestic bank accounts, money hidden in offshore accounts is harder to detect and interdict. This explains why offshore bank accounts are perhaps the most widely used method to hide vast sums of money. Individuals ranging from high-net-worth divorcing spouses to narco-traffickers and terrorist financiers can use

There ain't that many smurfs in the world.

If you are trying to detect hidden money you should look for asset search red flags like “smurfing¹.” Smurfing is a form of structuring cash deposits into bank accounts. It is one of the ways to secretly place cash into a money laundering circuit. When a bank customer in the U.S. deposits or withdraws $10,000 or more in cash, the bank must file a Currency Transaction Report (“CTR”). The bank files CTRs with FinCen which is a financial intelligence unit. To prevent the bank from filing a CTR, a smurf would make several cash deposits under $10,000. By structuring the cash deposits this way, the smurf hopes to fly under the radar.

ALLEGED SMURFING IN USA v. BAHADORIFAR, ET. AL.

Count Five of the 7/13/21 superseding indictment in USA v. Bahadorifar, et. al., 21 Cr. 00430(RA), highlights an alleged smurfing scheme. The smurfing scheme was supposedly carried out by California resident and department store employee, Ms. Niloufar Bahadorifar. Page 34 ¶¶ 41-42 of the 7/13/21superseding indictment at Count Five says:

[B]etween at least approximately April 2019 and May 2021, BAHADORIFAR structured cash deposits totaling at least approximately $505,822 at a financial institution in individual deposits of less than $10,000 each.

Additionally, page 9 ¶ 12 of the 7/13/21 superseding indictment claims that since July 2020, Ms. Bahadorifar made about $472,000 in unexplained cash deposits into her bank account. This allegedly included 98 cash deposits totaling approximately  $444,000 that were each less than $10,000. Ms. Bahadorifar is also thought to have tried to secretly transfer money by using debit &/or credit cards.

THE SUSPECTED IRANIAN TERRORIST NETWORK

Meanwhile, an Iranian terrorist network, (“the Network”), may be the true beneficial owner of Ms. Bahadorifar’s alleged $472,000 in unexplained cash deposits. The Network is comprised of Iranian intelligence officers and/or their intelligence assets. It is reportedly tasked with kidnapping exiled Iranian dissidents for rendition to Iran. Once the kidnapped victims are back in Iran, they face imprisonment &/or execution. According to the 7/13/21 superseding indictment, the Network planned to kidnap Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad, who lives in exile in Brooklyn, NY.  The Network apparently set its sights on Ms. Alinejad because she is vocal about the Government of Iran’s human rights abuses.

MISUSE OF PRIVATE INVESTIGATORS

During the alleged scheme to kidnap Ms. Alinejad for rendition to Iran, the Network allegedly hired licensed private investigators to place Ms. Alinejad under surveillance in Brooklyn, N.Y. The Network through its intelligence officers &/or intelligence assets hired the private investigators under the pretext of recovering money Ms. Alinejad supposedly stolen &/or supposedly owed to a foreign creditor. The Network is thought to have even hired a Manhattan-based private investigator to place a vehicle with a hidden camera in front of Ms. Alinejad’s Brooklyn home. This could provide the Network with live video monitoring of the home.

THE DECISION TO INITIATE OR DECLINE PROSECUTION 

Even though the Network hired private investigators to surveil Ms. Alinejad, prosecutors declined prosecution of the private investigators.The prosecutors might have believed the Network duped the private investigators into surveilling Ms. Alinejad. Prosecutors similarly declined prosecution of Ms. Bahadorifar for a conspiracy to kidnap Ms. Alinejad.  Prosecutors declined this prosecution although Page 9 ¶ 12 of the 7/13/21 superseding indictment alleges Ms. Bahadorifar “caused a payment to a private investigator for surveillance of [Ms. Alinejad]…”


Continue Reading Asset Search Red Flags, Smurfing, Private Investigators & A Kidnap Plot

Everybody knows there can be hidden community property in ultra-high-net-worth divorces.  Meanwhile, the ultra-high-net-worth divorce between Mr. Bill Gates and his wife Melinda does not now appear to involve hidden community property.  Their divorce does however, give us a glimpse of the kinds of community property the Court often divides in ultra-high-net worth divorces.

A Financial Intelligence Unit (“FIU”) tracks hidden assets by “following the money.”  There is always a money trail when assets are hidden and money is laundered. One way FIUs follow a money trail is by collecting suspicious activity reports from banks about bank customers. FIUs can follow a bank customer’s money trail

In USA v. Pursley prosecutors alleged Houston attorney Jack Stephen Pursley helped his client Shaun Philip Mooney repatriate money hidden offshore. On August 5, 2020 Attorney Pursley was sentenced to two years of prison on conspiracy and tax evasion charges.

I.  Attorney Pursley’s Alleged $18 Million Transfer To The U.S.

Attorney Pursley was accused of

Prosecutors in U.S.A. v. Kozel accuse Mr. Todd Kozel former CEO of Gulf Keystone Petroleum Ltd., of hiding assets by using lawyers, shell companies & trusts. The prosecutors claim Mr. Kozel fraudulently concealed assets from his ex-wife Ashley Kozel during the former couple’s Sarasota County Florida divorce. Mr. Kozel’s alleged scheme is

Determined criminals hiding assets typically wash assets by using money laundering methods. Laundering methods include: commingling funds; opening secret offshore bank accounts; hoarding & smuggling cash; titling assets in the name of nominees; etc. The Asia/Pacific Group On Money Laundering lists these and other key money laundering methods at its typologies webpage.

The

“Better Call Saul” & “Breaking Bad” remind us to look during asset searches for lawyers hiding money. In these fictional cable TV series, criminal defense lawyer Saul Goodman laundered money for meth maker Walter White & his co-conspirator Jesse Pinkman. At Breaking Bad’s Season 3, Episode 11 for example, Saul Goodman recommended washing illicit