COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Columbus-based Bulk Cash Smuggling Task Force seized more than $2.2 million in illicit proceeds from criminal organizations, which marked another record year suppressing criminal activity.
In less than two years, the task force has seized more than $4.6 million from criminal organizations.
In addition to this year’s monetary seizures, the task force – led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) – arrested 126 people for violating U.S. federal and state currency smuggling laws, including transmitting money without a license, laundering money and traveling in aid of racketeering enterprises.
The task force also seized 49 firearms – nearly tripling the amount seized last year – 88 pounds of cocaine, 19.8 pounds of heroin, 379.8 pounds of marijuana and 9.6 grams of crack cocaine. The majority of the seizures occurred in central Ohio.
Once money is seized, in addition to becoming evidence of a crime, it is ultimately forfeited and dispersed to federal, state and local law enforcement to support efforts to combat transnational crime.
Transnational criminal groups use a network of sophisticated smuggling operations and tactics to move illicit proceeds in, around and out of the United States. The funds are often derived from a number of criminal activities, including trafficking narcotics, weapons, and women and children as sex slaves.
Bulk cash smugglers use all transportation means available, including passenger vehicles, private and commercial airplanes, trains, boats and commercial trucks. Targeting criminal assets is one of the federal government's most effective tools in combating transnational crime.
"Removing the profit incentive is the single most effective way to thwart criminal activity," said Marlon Miller, special agent in charge for HSI Detroit, which covers Michigan and Ohio. "Cash is at the root of most of the criminal activity we investigate. The increases over last year’s numbers speak volumes to the level of dedication and sophistication in which the task force is addressing these threats. I applaud the efforts of all the talented men and women who serve on the task force."
"The significant results achieved by these task force members prove that teamwork, talent and experience are highly effective at interrupting the illegal flow of cash and drugs in and around the Columbus and central Ohio area," said Columbus Police Chief Kim Jacobs. "Seizing the drugs, assets and weapons of criminal groups makes it more difficult for drug dealers to harm our citizens and adds to overall public safety. The excellent cooperation and collaboration between the team members and the agencies that provide these resources are a model for how local, state and federal representatives can very effectively work together to impact crime that goes beyond jurisdictional boundaries. The passion of all involved to persistently seek and find unlawful assets in a dangerous mission is a testament to their dedication to service and our community."
"In a very short timeframe, this task force has sent out a clear warning of intolerance to those profiting from criminal activity in Central Ohio," said Franklin County Sheriff Zach Scott. "The collaboration among agencies is key to its success. We already know that the illegal drug trade is run by violent organized crime groups who make millions out of other people's despair. By tackling the funding source, we are severely disrupting their criminal enterprise."
"The work of the bulk cash smuggling unit within the Central Ohio High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Drug Task Force has been a very effective tool against drug trafficking organizations who are operating in our region," said Ohio HIDTA Executive Director Derek Siegle. "The removal of the ill-gotten gains from the drug pipeline causes a greater disruption and frustration to the organization then seizing the associated drugs due to the large profit margin represented by the cash being seized. This is not to diminish the effects of removing drugs from the streets, but the removal of the profits represents many times over the value of seized drugs to the organizations."
Bulk cash smuggling related crimes are punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison and seizure of all associated funds.
The task force is staffed by HSI, ICE's Enforcement and Removal Operations, the Columbus Police Department, the Franklin County Sheriff's Department, the Hilliard Police Department and the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
The task force is also supported by the Ohio HITDA and the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.
Following the successful efforts of the Columbus task force, similar groups have been established in Toledo, Cleveland and Cincinnati.
Central Ohio businesses can report illegal activity and learn more about bulk cash smuggling crimes by contacting HSI Columbus at 614-469-5705, extension 2108.
HSI's National Bulk Cash Smuggling Center is a key partner for the Columbus task force. The center assists with day-to-day operations and intelligence gathering and analysis.
As part of the effort to combat bulk cash smuggling, ICE established the Bulk Cash Smuggling Center in 2009. Between fiscal years 2003 and 2013, ICE HSI bulk cash smuggling investigations led to the arrest of more than 2,300 individuals and seizures of more than $547 million. The center is an operational, intelligence driven investigative unit that combats bulk cash smuggling from both national and international perspectives. It disrupts pipelines used to move currency derived from illicit activity including drugs, weapons, human trafficking, foreign political corruption and contraband.