Richard Weber: Keynote Speaker for the 11th Annual AML & Financial Crime Conference

ACAMS Today had the opportunity to interview the 11th Annual AML & Financial Crime Conference’s keynote speaker—Richard Weber.

Mr. Weber is Chief, IRS Criminal Investigation, and oversees a worldwide staff of over 4,000 employees, including approximately 2,700 special agents who investigate potential criminal violations of the Internal Revenue Code and related financial crimes, including money laundering, narcotics and terrorist financing.

Before joining IRS CI, Mr. Weber was the Deputy Chief of the Investigation Division and Chief of the Major Economic Crimes Bureau in the Manhattan District Attorney's Office. In this position, he was responsible for managing prosecutors, investigators and analysts handling investigations into securities and commodities fraud, large-scale mortgage and insurance fraud, Ponzi schemes, international money laundering, terrorist financing, sanctions evasion, asset forfeiture and tax crimes.

Mr. Weber has had a long and distinguished career, previously serving as Chief of the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section at the Department of Justice, and as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Eastern District of New York. Mr. Weber conducted numerous major money laundering investigations and prosecutions, including some of the largest forfeitures ever entered against financial institutions for sanctions violations. During his time at the DOJ, Mr. Weber worked extensively with CI and has an excellent knowledge of that office and the IRS more generally.

Mr. Weber is a two-time recipient of the Attorney General's John Marshall Award, the highest honor for Justice Department lawyers, for his work in promoting law enforcement's use of asset forfeiture. He is a highly recognized legal expert, well-versed in the execution of strategies for prosecuting criminal cases at the federal level.

ACAMS Today: What is the IRS’ role when investigating financial crimes?

Richard Weber: IRS-CI maintains and trains the best financial investigators working in the field today. CI special agents are tasked with many different types of case work. This can range from very complex income tax related investigations to following the illicit funds from illegal activity, whether from narcotics trafficking or white collar crimes.  The ability to utilize money laundering statutes allows our special agents to become involved in all types of criminal cases. 

Currently, IRS-CI has several investigative priorities which include: Offshore tax evasion, Identity Theft, Public Corruption, Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing.

In addition, the asset forfeiture provisions of the money laundering statutes allow IRS-CI to take the “profit” out of crime.  When investigating financial crimes, IRS-CI has a keen eye toward developing the asset forfeiture aspects of the case.  IRS-CI is one of the leading federal law enforcement agencies in these efforts.  

AT: What information obtained by the IRS is accessible or available to the compliance professional?

RW: The disclosure laws related to income tax regulations maintain a very strict parameter on the use of any data collected pertaining to the payment of taxes. Each person or business has the right to maintain adequate privacy over their financial matters and the ability to provide any of that information is strictly regulated. We realize this can be frustrating to other agencies both in the criminal and civil field when working with us, but this issue cannot be compromised. We do readily share information that we can with our law enforcement partners and you can find a lot of this information on the web site.

AML compliance professionals may also have valuable in-house sources of information available through their entities’ tax compliance professionals.  I recommend that all AML compliance professionals develop these in-house relationships.  Many financial institutions have private wealth management divisions that prepare individual, partnership and corporation tax returns.  In addition, the requirements of the new Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) will be handled by tax compliance professionals.  Your in-house tax compliance professionals have a wealth of information that will eventually be received by IRS.    

AT: What are three commonalities you have seen throughout the numerous investigations in which you have participated?

RW: There are many commonalities in today’s modern criminal investigations.  One of the major ones, that has not changed since the advent of modern banking is the use of financial institutions by criminal enterprises.  Financial institutions of all types are an important means for individuals to spend and conceal both legally and illegally earned funds.  The primary motivation of almost all crime is greed. Financial institutions are necessary in the modern age to allow individuals to make worldwide purchases and investments.

The crimes since the days of Al Capone have always been complex and have normally been a scheme within a scheme. The advent of modern technology allows individuals to easily and quickly falsify documents, invoices, etc. These documents are then provided to unsuspecting persons as legitimate items. The manner and look of the documents allows an otherwise sloppy organization to appear legitimate and dupe numerous individuals out of their funds.

With each new day, it appears that CI’s must continuously adapt to new technologies. As one type of scheme is uncovered and stopped, the criminal element adapts and changes due to the ease with which technology can be manipulated.

AT: What advice do you have for compliance professionals on how to collaborate with the IRS on financial crime investigations?

RW: IRS-CI Criminal Investigators are professional law enforcement agents and are the best financial investigators in the world.  CI special agents are extremely interested in obtaining relevant and useful material that pertains to their investigations.  Depending on the type of investigation, this information could be obtained by the use of an administrative summons or a grand jury subpoena. The use of one of these two methods should put the compliance professional at ease in dealing with law enforcement.

Many IRS-CI special agents are certified anti-money laundering specialists (CAMS).   They routinely attend their local ACAMS’ chapter meetings and networking events.  These are great venues to use to discuss financial crimes issues in a relaxed and informal manner with the local IRS-CI personnel. 

CI agents are really good at one thing: relentlessly following the money so crime does not pay.   But our law enforcement counterparts also have their unique, highly valuable skills.   When we work together it’s a force multiplier and criminals’ lose.  This is government working smart.  It’s what taxpayers expect of us.     

AT: What steps should a financial institution, and particularly the compliance department, take if they are being investigated by regulators or other governing bodies?

RW: My advice is to fully cooperate.  Notify your corporate counsel and follow their instructions.   And cooperation means not just your attorney cooperating with the government authorities; it also means cooperation from the institution itself.  Further, self-disclosure is also important.  If you think there is an issue with compliance – report it.

AT: Over the course of your career what changes in either regulations or criminal behaviors have most impacted the AML and financial crimes community?

RW: The money laundering and forfeiture laws have had a significant impact on criminal organizations.  In times past, during a drug trafficking investigation for instance, the trafficker along with his close associates may have gone to jail for the crimes.  Today, it is possible with modern laws to not only prosecute those persons actually involved with the illicit activity, but to pursue anyone who put their hands on any of the profits and willingly participated.

In addition, the federal asset forfeiture provisions have tremendously helped law enforcement with establishing much closer investigative relationships among federal, state and local law enforcement officers.  For example, IRS-CI has powerful tax, money laundering and BSA statutes at our disposal to investigate financial crimes.  Because IRS-CI can share forfeiture proceeds with their state and local law enforcement partners for their successful investigative efforts, these partnerships can have a multiplier effect on our personnel and reach, both domestically and internationally.  Many times these joint-federal-state-local investigations are developed through the suspicious activity reports (SARs) filed by financial institutions and other BSA regulated industries.     

Interviewed by: Karla Monterrosa-Yancey, CAMS, editor-in-chief, ACAMS, Miami, FL, USA,

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