On December 7, 2011, the ACAMS Southern California Chapter (the "Chapter") hosted another successful learning event and holiday mixer at the University Club of Pasadena, attracting more than 50 attendees. A panel of federal law enforcement Special Agents from both the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Financial Investigations Group, and from the Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigations Task Force examined the escalating Mexican narcotics war and the resultant laundering of criminal proceeds in the Southwestern United States.
The Special Agents raised awareness among the attendees concerning Mexican Regulations imposing restrictions on Mexican banks for transactions in U.S. currency. On June 15, 2010, the Mexican Finance Ministry announced new anti-money laundering (AML) regulations restricting the amounts of banknotes denominated in U.S. dollars that Mexican banks may receive. For individuals who are Mexican bank customers, the aggregate limit in U.S. currency that the bank may receive from its customer per calendar month is $4,000. For individuals who are non-customers that the bank may receive from the individual is $1,500 per month. For legal entities that are customers, the bank may receive an aggregate limit of $7,000 in U.S. currency per calendar month.
As of result of the implementation of the Mexican regulations, the Special Agents cited a coinciding impact on transaction activities in U.S. bank accounts. For instance, the regulations have led some to seek new relationships with U.S. financial institutions, and have led some businesses in Southern California to suddenly change transaction behaviors. For instance, the change in regulations may be accompanied by attempts to transfer non-cash proceeds to Mexico, such as through trade-based money laundering. The Special Agents advised attendees to be aware of currency deposit spikes, particularly in the downtown Los Angeles garment manufacturing businesses and in electronics-related businesses.
The presentation covered new trends in money laundering and red flags for AML Analysts to look for when reviewing customer activities. Financial institution's requirements to report suspicious activity are a significant source of leads for the Special Agents because SARs continue to be one of the most valuable sources of data for law enforcement in their investigation and prosecution of criminal activity.
In addition to the learning portion of the event the Chapter invited representatives from two local charities, the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking of Los Angeles (CAST LA) and Elizabeth House, to make short presentations to the group. Attendees were encouraged to donate what they could to the charities and the Chapter matched the donations. With the donations and matching, over $1,000 was collected to support these worthy causes.
More information on the Chapter and the charities noted above can be found at the following links:
ACAMS Southern California http://www.acams.org/southern-california-chapter/
CAST LA http://www.castla.org/
Elizabeth House http://elizabethhouse.net/