12-28-2018 | News
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FBI Warns of Growing Concern for Money Mules Used in Fraud
The FBI is becoming increasingly concerned in a fraud scam involving money laundering and targeting companies in Connecticut and other parts of the country. So far, the cases have already resulted in a 45-month prison sentence for one of the culprits. FBI wants to contain the problem through a twin response combination of prosecution and public awareness.
Aside from the usual schemes of criminals, one pattern the officials are closely looking into is the use of “money mules” - these are the people who, unwittingly or not, use their personal bank accounts to move money for criminals for reasons they wrongly thought are legitimate or even “noble.”
FBI supervisory special agent James Abbott elaborates in an interview about the criminal act: “They trial and error this stuff and they see what works and they see what doesn’t. It’s a much higher success rate when you have a lot of money using somebody else’s account going through there instead of trying to cross the border with a physical transportation of cash.”
So serious is the growing problem that the FBI and international law enforcement agencies have stepped up their efforts against said fraud. They’re also building bigger cases than before.
For its part, Europol stated this month that it had already identified 1,504 money mules, arresting 168 in the process, over a continent-wide bust.
The FBI arrested 74 people in June including 29 in Nigeria, for schemes especially targeting businesses and the elderly. This month an intense publicity campaign called “Don’t Be a Mule” has been launched.
Money mules are at times persuaded by people they didn’t know are criminals into agreeing to cooperate in the scheme by promising them incentives through cuts or commissions. They would then move money transfers to their own bank accounts “directed” by a fraudster they may mistake for an online friend or romantic partner, a military officer overseas or an employer. They’re instructed afterwards to transfer funds elsewhere, into accounts controlled by criminals.
There are also the mules who serve as witting conspirators, often they are elderly, lonely or confused.
Some times the FBI go easy on those who are genuinely shocked to find out they’ve been used in criminal activities. Steven D’ Antuono said: “When we approach them and talk to them and explain to them what they’ve been doing,a lot of times, the horror is there. It’s all walks of life, all educational levels. Anyone can fall victim to this.”
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