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Financial Crimes

Washington convenience store owner sentenced for structuring bank deposits

Defendant directed to forfeit more than $400,000

YAKIMA, Wash. - The owner of an Ellensburg, Wash., convenience store who structured his bank deposits to avoid federal reporting requirements was sentenced today to 11 months in prison followed by one year of court supervision, as a result of an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Gurmit Singh Kaila, 53, who operated the "Big B" Mini-Mart on Canyon Road in Ellensburg, will also be required to forfeit more than $400,000 to the U.S. government. He pleaded guilty in January to eight felony counts of structuring deposits of U.S. currency in violation of federal law.

In December 2006, ICE agents began investigating Kaila's numerous deposits into his checking account at Ellensburg Savings and Loan in amounts near, but never exceeding, the federal reporting requirement of more than $10,000. Further investigation revealed similar activity at other banks including Yakima Federal Savings and Loan Association and the Cashmere Valley Bank where he maintained accounts. Investigators concluded that Kaila had made more than 1,200 deposits over a five-year period.

"This case illustrates the consequences of not complying with our nation's financial reporting laws," said Leigh Winchell, special agent in charge of ICE's Office of Investigations that oversees eastern Washington. "ICE will work with financial institutions to investigate this type of activity and deter those who seek to benefit from this type of illegal activity."

Structuring is a federal crime under the Bank Secrecy Act, which requires banks to file reports with the U.S. Treasury Department and preserve designated financial records that detail withdrawals, deposits or transfers of U.S. currency exceeding $10,000. Before concluding these transactions, the financial institution is required to obtain valid identification of the individual conducting the transaction.

ICE received assistance in the investigation from the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation, the Ellensburg Police Department, the Yakima Police Department and the Central Washington University Police Department.