Arizona regulation enforcement crack down on “cash mule” fraud – KVOA Tucson Information
TUCSON (KVOA) – The Department of Justice announced a successful annual “money mule” operation in a news release Wednesday, partnering with several federal, state and local law enforcement organizations across the country.
The Department of Homeland Security issued a news release of its own focusing on the Arizona leg of the operation, it says the collaboration between law enforcement agencies allowed them to serve more than 70 warnings.
DHS said increased “money mule” activity in Arizona was the focus of a two-month multiagency initiative to identify, disrupt, investigate and prosecute financial fraud schemes.
It said a money mule is a person who transfers illegally acquired money on behalf of, or at the direction of, another person. Money mules often receive a commission for the service, according to the release.
DHS said many provide assistance because they believe they are in a trusting or romantic relationship with the individual asking for help or are attempting to get their money back from a previous scheme in which they were victimized. Much of the money moved through these third parties is stolen through Internet-enabled frauds, thefts, and scams.
While some money mules may be genuinely unaware of their involvement in a criminal scheme, many fully understand they are moving money attained from unlawful activities, the release said. Those individuals who act as money mules with the knowledge that they are furthering a fraud scheme may be subject to criminal prosecution for committing a serious felony, such as money laundering.
From Oct. 23 to Nov. 18, law enforcement and prosecuting agencies including the U.S. Attorney’s Office District of Arizona, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), with the assistance of 12 partner agencies, united to conduct more than 70 interviews with individuals whose financial transactions indicated they were acting as money mules.
During the initiative, agencies identified a variety of fraud schemes used to exploit these individuals, including computer technical support scams, romance scams, lottery scams, Internal Revenue Service imposter scams, and employment scams.
Over the span of two months, law enforcement took actions throughout Arizona to halt the conduct of money mules by serving over 70 warning letters, which informed recipients that they could be prosecuted if they continued aiding and abetting these fraud schemes, the release said.
The coordinated initiative focused on elder fraud cases where senior citizens served as money mules, including grandparent scams and romance scams.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Arizona, HSI, and FBI said they would like to thank the following agencies involved in this initiative for their unwavering commitment and outstanding work:
• Arizona Attorney General’s Office
• Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General
• Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation
• Marana Police Department
• Nogales Police Department
• Oro Valley Police Department
• Pima County Sheriff’s Department
• Sahuarita Police Department
• Tohono O’odham Police Department
• Tucson Police Department
• U.S. Postal Inspection Service
• U.S. Secret Service