19 January, 2016

It's laundry day. . .for some of us.

DISCLAIMER: Any and all information contained herein is for the "entertainment" of the reader and not meant as a course in "how to."  Do not contact me for bail money.

If you're like me, you have more bills than money at the end of the month, and the lottery is your only hope of changing that situation. You own a house, some stocks, maybe even a boat, but you don't have a safe (or two) full of spare cash.

There is a subset of the population, however, who actually have too much money, the physical, liquid type. Try taking a suitcase full of $100 bills to your local Jaguar dealership and see if you raise any eyebrows. Funny, but some people do have this problem, mostly drug dealers, embezzling accountants, unscrupulous investment advisers and corrupt politicians.

Depositing more than $10,000 into a bank account will raise a number of red flags with various government agencies (as will trying to deposit money in an account other than your own.) So what's a crook to do with all that money he's made off rigged vending machines, Ponzi schemes, and bribes?

Simple answer: launder the money.

The easiest way to avoid setting off warning bells is have relatives (if you have enough of them and trust them) or low level thugs to make multiple small deposits, either on different days or at various branches on the same day. It's a simple, but time consuming fix and, with today's increasingly complex computer algorithms, no longer foolproof. (Bank Secrecy Act Anti-Money Laundering Examination Manual provides an exhaustive list of "suspicious" behaviour banks check for.)     


A wiser choice is the use of offshore or overseas banks in money-friendly countries like the Cayman Island, the Bahamas, or Panama. These countries do not subscribe to irksome banking laws and anti-money laundering procedures. They also do not share information with the US government, thereby creating a safe haven for ill-gotten gains.

Another popular choice is shell companies, companies that exist for the sole purpose of money laundering. Shell companies often offer some sort of service that can easily be fudged and usually accepts cash as payment when doing legitimate business — think landscaping service, beauty salons, builders, plumbers. The "dirty" money is funneled into the company, made to look like legitimate income with fake invoices and receipts and then deposited into the shell company’s accounts "clean" cash.

Again, this is not foolproof.  Any forensic accountant worth his diploma will easily find the dirty money, forcing the owners to continually open new shell companies. Unless, of course, they themselves have a Wharton Business School accountant rigging the books.

Finally, there's the gambling option. Gambling chips can be purchased anonymously with dirty money and after a period of time they can be cashed back in and turned into clean money. Even if the casino follows the letter of the law and asks for ID to record the transaction, the Feds are powerless to prove the money was ever dirty. While sophisticated surveillance and security measures now limit the options in major casinos, there are plenty of smaller places to play.

What are your odds of winning? Consider this scheme: two "associates" are at the same roulette table. While one bets a substantial amount on red, the other places a similar amount on black. Provided neither zero nor double zero come up, one side doubles the money and turns it legit at the same time. Easy, peasy.

Now don't you wish you had a duffle bag of cash?