By R. Mitchell –
Attorney General William Barr and law enforcement partners today announced a concentrated effort across the country and around the world to halt money mule activity. Money mules assist fraud schemes by receiving money from victims, many of them elderly, and forwarding proceeds to foreign-based perpetrators. During the two-month initiative announced today, U.S. law enforcement disrupted mule networks that spanned from Hawaii to Florida and from Alaska to Maine. Actions were taken to halt the conduct of over 600 domestic money mules, exceeding a similar effort against approximately 400 mules last year. The Department of Justice also tripled the number of criminal prosecutions brought against money mules as compared to last year’s initiative.
Attorney General Barr thanked the FBI, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch for coordinating the effort. The coordinators recruited a broad coalition of law enforcement partners, including the U.S. Secret Service, the IRS Criminal Investigation, the Department of Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General, and the Office of the Attorneys General for the States of Indiana and Wyoming. The U.S. initiative coincided with the European Money Mule Action (EMMA) a simultaneous global effort to halt money mule activity announced by Europol today.
U.S. federal and state law enforcement activity included the following:
- Actions were taken to halt the conduct of more than 600 money mules, spanning over 85 federal districts.
- Actions addressed a variety of elder fraud scheme types, including grandparent scams, romance scams, lottery and sweepstakes scams, IRS and Social Security Administration imposter scams, veteran and social security benefit redirection scams, and technical-support scams.
- Law enforcement interviewed more than 550 individuals and served over 500 warning letters on individuals who recently served as money mules for fraud schemes. The letters informed recipients that they could be prosecuted if they continue aiding and abetting fraud schemes.
- More than 30 individuals were criminally charged, in part, for their roles in receiving victim payments and providing the fraud proceeds to accomplices.
- Search warrants were executed to secure evidence from money mules who knowingly aided and abetted fraud schemes, including a number of transnational elder fraud schemes.
“Protecting our senior citizens from criminals who target them is one of the Trump Administration’s highest priorities,” said Attorney General William P. Barr. “Money mules –wittingly and unwittingly – supply the lifeblood of transnational elder fraud schemes. This landmark initiative has significantly impaired certain ways criminals steal from its elderly victims. The Department of Justice and its federal, state, and international partners are committed to shutting down these despicable enterprises that exploit the most vulnerable in our society.”
“The Money Mule initiative highlights the importance of partnership to stop fraud schemes, and it sends a message to all who are engaged in money mule activity that they will be caught and prosecuted,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “I want to thank our state and local partners for all their efforts to protect the American people from these threats.”
As part of the money mule initiative, members of the Department’s Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force—which the Attorney General established in June 2019 to combat foreign elder fraud schemes—brought criminal cases alleging that defendants knowingly funneled fraud proceeds to perpetrators including:
- On Nov. 27, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia announced an indictment against Nnamdi MgBodile for his alleged role in a romance scam and business email compromise fraud;
- On Nov. 25, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida announced an indictment against alleged perpetrators of a veteran and social security benefit redirection scam, which involved extensive use of money mules; and
- On Nov. 14, the Department’s Consumer Protection Branch announced the indictment of six individuals for an alleged mass mailing fraud scheme in which a co-conspirator was charged with knowingly receiving payments from elderly victims and supplying them to scheme leaders; and
Additional criminal cases were brought as part of the two-month money mule initiative by the U.S. Attorney’s Offices in the Eastern District of Texas, the Eastern District of Kentucky, the District of Arizona, the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, the Northern District of Oklahoma, the Southern District of New York, the District of Puerto Rico, the Eastern District of Missouri, the District of Delaware, and the District of Rhode Island.
The above charges are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
“Since Congress passed the Mail Fraud Statute over 100 years ago, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service has protected citizens from fraud schemes,” said Chief Postal Inspector Gary Barksdale of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. “Deceptive solicitations take advantage of the American public with promises of easy money, when in reality, the scammers are the only ones making money. Postal Inspectors are working hard to protect the American public and ensure their confidence in the U.S. mail.”
Attorney General Barr thanked the Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) for its support of the money mule initiative. Financial analysis and data supplied by FinCEN allowed law enforcement to identify and prevent money mule activity and elder fraud schemes, as highlighted by a report FinCEN issued today. Attorney General Barr also expressed appreciation for financial institutions across the nation that identify suspicious activity and report it to FinCEN, enabling federal, state, and local law enforcement to take rapid action against ongoing schemes.
Since President Trump signed the bipartisan Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act (EAPPA) into law, the Department of Justice has participated in hundreds of enforcement actions in criminal and civil cases that targeted or disproportionately affected seniors. In particular, this past March the Department announced the largest elder fraud enforcement action in American history, charging more than 260 defendants in a nationwide elder fraud sweep. The Department has likewise conducted hundreds of trainings and outreach sessions across the country since the passage of EAPPA. In October, the Department also partnered with the Oak Ridge Boys and AARP in issuing a public service announcement to raise awareness about the grave financial threat posed by elder fraud.
The Department of Justice has an interactive tool for elders who have been financially exploited to help determine to which agency they should report their incident, and also a senior scam alert website.
Victims are encouraged to file a complaint online with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at this website or by calling 1-800-225-5324.
Elder fraud complaints may be filed with the FTC at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov or at 877-FTC-HELP.
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