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Financial Crimes
10/08/2020

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Department of State offers $5M reward for information leading to arrest, conviction of former Venezuelan government official on ICE Most Wanted List

Most Wanted: Lopez Bello, Samark Jose

NEW YORK – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York announced Friday that a former Venezuelan official and member the agency’s Most Wanted List has been designated as a target of the U.S. Department of State’s (DOS) Transnational Organized Crime Rewards Program in an effort to end corruption and criminality tied to the Maduro regime in Venezuela. This investigation was conducted by the HSI New York and HSI Miami El Dorado Financial Crimes Task Forces.

“HSI New York’s El Dorado Task Force is uniquely qualified to investigate complex, international money laundering and other serious financial crimes. Working with our law enforcement partners around the country and around the world, we will continue to safeguard our financial systems from international corruption that enriches the coffers of dictators and their cronies. This designation is a clear message – corruption stops at our border,” said Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Director Tony H. Pham.

On Feb. 13, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) designated Lopez as a Specially Designated Narcotics Trafficker (SDNT) “for providing material assistance, financial support, or goods or services in support of…international narcotics trafficking activities.” Specifically, OFAC identified Lopez as a “key frontman” for El Aissami, handling business arrangements and financial matters that generated significant profits as a result of El Aissami’s illegal activity.

Based on investigations by HSI New York and HSI Miami, Lopez was indicted in March 2019 and March 2020 in the Southern District of New York for violations of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, the Kingpin Act, and other sanctions imposed by OFAC.

The Transnational Organized Crime Rewards Program was established by Congress in 2013 as a tool to assist the U.S. government to identify and bring to justice members of significant transnational criminal organizations. The program offers rewards for information that leads to the arrest and/or conviction of members of transnational criminal organizations involved in criminal activity that threaten national security, such as human trafficking, money laundering, weapons trafficking, and other types of contraband.

With over 200 members from more than 30 local, state, federal and international law enforcement agencies, HSI New York’s El Dorado Task Force is the premier financial crimes investigative task force in the world. They are responsible for detecting, disrupting and dismantling transnational criminal financial networks by preventing their access to U.S. financial systems and stemming the flow of their illicit funds through indictments, arrests, and seizures. Since its inception in 1992, task force investigators have seized nearly $2 billion in illicit proceeds and made over 3000 criminal arrests for money laundering and other serious financial crimes.

HSI is the principal investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security and a vital U.S. asset in combating criminal organizations illegally exploiting America's travel, trade, financial and immigration systems. Across the country and around the world, HSI uses its unique and expansive authorities to investigate all types of cross-border crime, including money laundering, financial fraud and scams, narcotics trafficking, child exploitation, transnational gangs, identity & benefit fraud, intellectual property theft & trade fraud, human smuggling and trafficking, illicit technology transfer, weapons trafficking, terrorism and national security threats, human rights violations & war crimes, and cybercrime.

With more than 8,500 special agents and intelligence analysts assigned to more than 200 cities throughout the U.S. and more than 80 offices in 53 countries around the globe, HSI is a key partner of local, state, federal and foreign law enforcement organizations worldwide.

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Last Reviewed/Updated: 10/09/2020