Law enforcement entities share criminal typologies and methods with businesses and industries that manage the very systems that terrorists and criminal organizations seek to exploit. This sharing of information allows the financial and trade community to take precautions to protect itself from exploitation. In return, ICE receives information to more thoroughly investigate these complex and sophisticated criminal schemes.
ICE uses financial investigations to beat criminals at their trade. By following the money trail, law enforcement can identify and dismantle international criminal networks, seizing the networks' proceeds and related assets. ICE, along with other Department of Homeland Security component agencies, is charged with protecting the nation's borders. One way ICE does this is by investigating the illicit flow of money in and out of the United States. (read more)
ICE is a participant in the International Mass-Marketing Fraud Working Group to combat international consumer fraud, such as email and telephone scams. Read more about mass-marketing fraud, including the 2010 Mass-Marketing Fraud threat assessment.
ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) launched the SEARCH (Seizing Earnings and Assets from Retail Crime Heists) Initiative as an ongoing, national initiative to address the threat of transnational crime being committed by organized retail crime rings. The SEARCH Initiative searches for illicit proceeds, seizes hidden assets and shuts down organized retail crime rings. Read more
Project STAMP attacks human smuggling and human trafficking organizations from an aggressive anti-money laundering stance. ICE’s Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) follows money trails to identify key members of criminal organizations involved in human smuggling/human trafficking activity. Seizure of these assets is crucial to shutting down these organizations. Read more
Protecting America is more than just a responsibility for government agencies; it's a shared mission for all Americans. The importance of private sector partnership in this shared mission cannot be overstated. There are several ways individuals and businesses can help:
Section Chief: Patrick S. Li
National Program Manager: Vernon D. Bison
Phone: (202) 732-5788
The Cornerstone Report is a quarterly bulletin highlighting key issues related to ICE financial, narcotics, and public safety investigations.
In June 2010, ICE and the DHS Office of Counternarcotics Enforcement, in cooperation with the government of Mexico, issued the Bi-National Criminal Proceeds Study. This bilateral study focuses on how criminal enterprises move illicit proceeds across borders.
It is well understood that the primary goal of organized crime is profit. Estimates for the amount of cash that travels from the United States to Mexico to fuel the criminal operations of drug cartels range from $19 to $29 billion each year.
What has not been as well understood by law enforcement is how and where that cash is collected, transported and delivered. This study is an important step in understanding the nature of money laundering and bulk cash smuggling today, and will help to enhance law enforcement strategy for dismantling the financial infrastructure of criminal organizations.
Download the Bi-National Criminal Proceeds Study (PDF | 1 MB).
Certain types of financial transactions serve as indicators, or “red flags” that call for further scrutiny by the financial, commercial, trade and transportation sectors. The indicators listed below may, either by themselves or in conjunction with other factors, raise the level of suspicion regarding a transaction. These indicators are characteristic of the kinds of activity that Cornerstone targets.
Recognizing that these red flags are dynamic and evolving, Cornerstone will continue to appraise the U.S. financial and trade sectors of newly identified indicators through the Cornerstone Report, a quarterly newsletter published by ICE, designed to share information between ICE and the financial and trade community.
NOTE: Voluntarily reporting suspicious activity to ICE does not replace the legal obligation to file Suspicious Activity Reports, or other reports mandated by the Bank Secrecy Act, USA PATRIOT Act, or any other government regulation. For more information, visit the FinCEN and the Treasury Department websites.
To combat this trend, in 1992, the former U.S. Customs Service Office of Investigations (now ICE), in conjunction with the President’s Office of National Drug Control Policy initiated an aggressive, multi-agency approach to target financial crimes within the New York and New Jersey metropolitan area. This initiative was named the El Dorado Task Force.
The El Dorado Task Force comprises over 260 members from more than 55 law enforcement agencies in New York and New Jersey – including special agents, state and local police investigators, intelligence analysts and federal prosecutors. A significant component of the task force is our High Intensity Financial Crimes Area (HIFCA)/Intelligence Unit, which is responsible for analyzing records and other financial data. The El Dorado Task Force is headquartered at the ICE office of the Special Agent in Charge, New York and at other locations in the New York/New Jersey Metropolitan area.
The El Dorado Task Force targets financial crime at all levels. Utilizing ICE’s Cornerstone approach, agents assigned to the task force educate the private financial sector to identify and eliminate vulnerabilities and promote anti-money laundering legislation through training and other outreach programs. Prosecutors utilize a full range of criminal and civil laws to prosecute targets and forfeit the proceeds of their illicit activity. The El Dorado Task Force utilizes a systems-based approach to investigating financial crimes by targeting vulnerabilities such as the Black Market Peso Exchange and commodity-based money laundering.
The El Dorado Task Force has been responsible for some of ICE’s most significant money laundering investigations. Some of its notable investigations include:
In Operation Meltdown, ICE investigated and shut down a large-scale narcotics money laundering operation in which criminals smuggled gold, disguised as common household goods, to Colombia. agents from New York made 26 arrests and seized $2.8 million in cash, approximately $1.4 million in gold, and approximately $1 million in diamonds.
This investigation to the arrest of 42 targets for narco-money laundering and the seizure of over $8.2 million in laundered proceeds. This investigation also led to the first-ever extraditions from Colombia to the U.S. for money laundering.
ICE agents crippled a major New York cocaine supply ring by targeting the money remitters who were sending proceeds of drug sales to Colombia. This investigation led to the indictment and extradition of the hierarchy of the Norte Valle Cartel, allegedly responsible for smuggling 1.2 million pounds of cocaine worth over $10 billion into the U.S.