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Cornerstone detects and closes down weaknesses within U.S. financial, trade and transportation sectors that can be exploited by criminal networks.
Cornerstone exmaples

Cornerstone is ICE's initiative to detect and close down weaknesses within U.S. financial, trade and transportation sectors that can be exploited by criminal networks. 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 in order to protect themselves from exploitation. In return, ICE receives information to more thoroughly investigate these complex and sophisticated criminal schemes.

Financial Investigations Topics of Interest

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)

Mass-Marketing Fraud

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.

SEARCH Initiative

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 (Smuggler and Trafficker Assets, Monies and Proceeds)

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

How You Can Help

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:


Unit Chief: Jamarle Worilds

National Program Manager: Charles Baxter
Phone: (202) 732-5681

Email: Cornerstone@ice.dhs.gov

The Cornerstone Report is a quarterly bulletin highlighting key issues related to ICE financial, narcotics, and public safety investigations.

Volume 13

  • Volume 13: No. 4 (PDF | 980 KB)
  • Volume 13: No. 3 (PDF | 839 KB)
  • Volume 13: No. 2 (PDF | 808 KB)
  • Volume 13: No. 1 (PDF | 623 KB)

Volume 12

  • Volume 12: No. 3 (PDF | 710 KB)

Volume 11

  • Volume 11: No. 1 (PDF | 1.1 MB)

Volume 10

  • Volume 10: No. 1 (PDF | 1.8 MB)

Volume 9

  • Volume 9: No. 1 (PDF | 1.9 MB)

Volume 8

  • Volume 8: No. 1 (PDF | 627 KB)

Volume 7

  • Volume 7: No. 3 (PDF | 531 KB)
  • Volume 7: No. 2 (PDF | 779 KB)
  • Volume 7: No. 1 (PDF | 334 KB)

Volume 6

  • Volume 6: No. 4: (PDF | 547 KB)
  • Volume 6: No. 3: (PDF | 299 KB)
  • Volume 6: No. 2: (PDF | 299 KB)
  • Volume 6: No. 1: (PDF | 299 KB)

Volume 5

  • Volume 5: No. 3: (PDF | 512 KB)
  • Volume 5: No. 2: (PDF | 619 KB)
  • Volume 5: No. 1: (PDF | 478 KB)

Volume 4

  • Volume 4: No. 3: (PDF | 209 KB)
  • Volume 4: No. 2: (PDF | 392 KB)
  • Volume 4: No. 1: (PDF | 312 KB)

Volume 3

  • Volume 3: No. 2: (PDF | 339 KB)
  • Volume 3: No. 1: (PDF | 498 KB)

Volume 2

  • Volume 2: No. 3: (PDF | 1.44 MB)
  • Volume 2: No. 2: (PDF | 247 KB)
  • Volume 2: No. 1: (PDF | 889 KB)

Volume 1

  • Volume 1: No. 4: (PDF | 623 KB)
  • Volume 1: No. 3: (PDF | 632 KB)
  • Volume 1: No. 2: (PDF | 386 KB)
  • Volume 1: No. 1: (PDF | 281 KB)

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.

Red Flag indicators include:

  • Any evidence of structuring, including:
    • Frequent transactions or purchase of negotiable instruments $10,000 or under in order to avoid filing a Currency Transaction Report (CTR).
    • Customer making cash deposits $10,000 or under at multiple locations or cash deposits made to one account at the same location by multiple individuals.
    • Customer depositing $10,000 or under after being told of CTR reporting requirement.
    • Splitting large currency deposits among several accounts.
  • Frequent/unusual use of night deposit drops or ATM machines for deposits.
  • Purchase of any monetary instrument by a non-customer with large amounts of currency.
  • Transactions involving a high volume of incoming or outgoing wire transfers, with no logical or apparent purpose, that comes from, goes to, or transit through locations of concern (i.e., sanctioned countries, sympathizer nations, non-cooperative nations) Wire transfers by charitable organizations to companies located in countries known to be bank or tax havens.
  • Using multiple accounts to collect funds that are then transferred to the same foreign beneficiaries.
  • Cash debiting schemes in which deposits in the U.S. correlate directly with ATM cash withdrawals in countries of concern, and vice-versa.
  • Issuing checks, money orders, or other financial instruments, often numbered sequentially, to the same person or business, or to a person or business whose name is spelled similarly.
  • Reluctance or refusal of individuals to provide identifying information to bank employee.
  • Transactions inconsistent with usual and customary business or personal practices (i.e. wire transfers that do not coincide with the type of business or activity in which customer is normally engaged; negotiation of third party checks inconsistent with type of business customer is involved in).
  • Sudden, unexplained change in banking habits or activity.
  • Transfer of funds to a commercial account with no logical relationship or connection to the sender of the funds (i.e. jewelry store account wiring money to auto parts exporter).

To report suspicious activity, please contact: 1-866-DHS-2-ICE

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.


El Dorado
El Dorado
Throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s, U.S. law enforcement saw an increasing number of major financial crimes, primarily as a result of narco-money laundering.
El Dorado

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.

At a Glance - El Dorado Task Force Agents:

  • Applied hundreds of federal criminal statutes, including provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act and the Bank Secrecy Act in its arsenal to combat financial criminal activity
  • Obtained the first-ever extradition of Colombian drug lords for narco-money laundering
  • Made over 2,000 arrests
  • Seized over $580 million in illegal proceeds

Who We Are

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.

A Tradition of Success

The El Dorado Task Force has been responsible for some of ICE’s most significant money laundering investigations. Some of its notable investigations include:

Operation Meltdown

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.

Operation Wirecutter

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.

Norte Valle Cartel

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.

How You Can Help

  • Report suspicious financial activity in the New York Metropolitan Area to the El Dorado Task Force by calling (646) 230-3200.
  • Partner with the El Dorado Task Force. Become a private sector partner by contacting us and arranging for a presentation by a task force agent.
  • Comply with the Bank Secrecy Act, the USA PATRIOT Act, and other industry reporting requirements through a comprehensive anti-money laundering program
Last Reviewed/Updated: 03/29/2019