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Tuesday, May 21st, 2024

U.S. initiative targets money mules involved in fraud

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As part of an annual action known as the Money Mule Initiative, federal law enforcement agencies took action against more than 3,000 alleged mules looking to undertake a variety of transnational fraud schemes.

Participating agencies included the U.S. Justice Department, FBI, U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) and more, all focused on identifying, disrupting and prosecuting networks of fraudsters. Such frauds include everything from lottery frauds, to romance scams and targeting government pandemic funds.

“The Justice Department is committed to using every tool at our disposal to protect Americans from fraud,” Acting Associate Attorney General Benjamin Mizer said. “By working with our federal partners to disrupt money mule networks, educate consumers about scams, and prosecute criminals, we can keep money out of the hands of international fraudsters and in the pockets of hard-working Americans.”

While the bulk of this year’s efforts included warning letters for those potentially affected, there were also criminal prosecutions and education efforts focused both on consumers and unwitting participants. Money mules are go-betweens – many unknowing – that fraudsters use to assist their schemes by receiving and transferring money.

“The dismantling of these criminal networks should send a strong message that the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, along with our partners, is committed to taking down these criminal networks designed to inflict financial harm, oftentimes to our most vulnerable population, older Americans,” USPIS Inspector in Charge Eric Shen said. “The Inspection Service will continue to participate in public education efforts, while remaining committed to enforcing the laws that bring money mules and their international puppeteers to justice.”

Agencies dispatched warning letters to approximately 2,970 people letting them know their actions were aiding fraud schemes. They outlined possible consequences of continuing to transmit any illegally acquired funds. On top of this, more than 20 individuals were criminally charged for knowingly receiving and forwarding victim funds or otherwise laundering fraud proceeds in New Jersey, North Carolina and Missouri, among others. These cases alone brought in millions, with the Missouri case providing particularly lucrative – it alone saw about $7 million in cashier’s checks deposited into one bank account between March 2020 and July 2023.

A public awareness campaign was also launched to warn taxpayers about how money mules are recruited, and to warn banks about money mules and their roles in identifying and stopping them.