Trump administration announces ‘Money Mule’ initiative

Attorney General William Barr gestures while speaking to the National Association of Attorneys General, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019, in Washington.
Associated Press / Jacquelyn Martin

United States Attorney General William P. Barr and law enforcement partners have announced what they describe as “a concentrated effort across the country and around the world,” including the Caribbean, to halt “money mule” activity.

According to the US Department of Justice (DOJ), “money mules” assist fraud schemes by receiving money from victims, many of them elderly, and forwarding proceeds to foreign-based perpetrators.

During the two-month initiative, the DOJ said US law enforcement disrupted mule networks that spanned from Hawaii to Florida and from Alaska to Maine.

The DOJ said wctions were taken to halt the conduct of over 600 domestic money mules, exceeding a similar effort against about 400 mules last year.

The DOJ said it also tripled the number of criminal prosecutions brought against money mules, as compared to last year’s initiative.

Barr thanked the FBI, the US Postal Inspection Service and the DOJ’s Consumer Protection Branch for coordinating the effort.

The DOJ said actions addressed a variety of elder fraud scheme types, including grandparent scams; romance scams; lottery and sweepstakes scams, involving Jamaican nationals; IRS and Social Security Administration imposter scams; veteran and social security benefit redirection scams; and technical-support scams.

“Law enforcement interviewed more than 550 individuals and served over 500 warning letters on individuals who recently served as ‘money mules’ for fraud schemes,” the DOJ said. “The letters informed recipients that they could be prosecuted if they continue aiding and abetting fraud schemes.”

The DOJ said more than 30 individuals were criminally charged, in part, for their roles in receiving victim payments and providing the fraud proceeds to accomplices.

“Search warrants were executed to secure evidence from money mules who knowingly aided and abetted fraud schemes, including a number of transnational elder fraud schemes,” the DOJ said.

“Protecting our senior citizens from criminals who target them is one of the Trump Administration’s highest priorities,” Barr said. “Money mules –wittingly and unwittingly – supply the lifeblood of transnational elder fraud schemes.

“This landmark initiative has significantly impaired certain ways criminals steal from its elderly victims,” he added. “The Department of Justice and its federal, state, and international partners are committed to shutting down these despicable enterprises that exploit the most vulnerable in our society.”

FBI Director Christopher Wray said the “Money Mule” initiative “highlights the importance of partnership to stop fraud schemes, and it sends a message to all who are engaged in money mule activity that they will be caught and prosecuted.”

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