First of all, Happy New Year and best wishes for 2014 to all ACAMS members and colleagues in the AML community!
The ACAMS Southern California Chapter ended the year of 2013 with a bang (and a drink) by hosting our traditional holiday learning event, which was presented by a law enforcement and industry panel on the topics of Virtual Currency and Prepaid Debit Cards.
The event, sponsored by Thomson Reuters, was held on December 4th at the University Club in Pasadena. Some 30 participants and guests had an enjoyable evening with a panel presentation, fabulous holiday dinner including wine, crème brûlée and a raffle of prizes.
The attendees had an opportunity to learn about the interesting and mind-boggling facts and implications of virtual currency as well as the fraud and AML risks of prepaid debit cards. Panel Speakers Jeff Ross, SVP & BSA officer of Green Dot Corporation, an IRS special agent-criminal investigations and, an assistant U.S. attorney assigned to the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section shared with the audience their insights on the nature and terminology of virtual currencies and prepaid debit cards, the actual and potential use of these forms of money and currency for fraud and money laundering, and the strategies in mitigating risks through stringent CIP/CDD and the active monitoring of transactions.
Ross joined Green Dot Corporation in 2008 as SVP, BSA/AML compliance officer and also serves the same role and responsibilities for Green Dot Bank since 2011. Prior to joining Green Dot, Ross served as the senior advisor (law enforcement) in the Office for Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes at the U.S. Department of the Treasury where he received the Department's Meritorious Service Award.
In addition, Ross also served 19 years at the U.S. Department of Justice before joining the Treasury in 2002, where he specialized in counter-money laundering policies in the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section and the Office of the Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division. Ross received the John Marshall Award, the Justice Department's highest litigation award, from Attorney General Janet Reno in 2000 and worked with the FBI as the DOJ representative to establish its first interagency counter-terrorist financing task force post-9/11.
Our two other panel speakers consisted of an assistant U.S. attorney from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California and a special agent from the IRS-Criminal Investigations with extensive experience in financial crimes and money laundering cases. The AUSA for the Central District of California Los Angeles has served in his current role since 2008 and was assigned to the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section in 2011. Prior to his current assignment, he was a State court prosecutor in Chicago for three years (2003–2006) and served as assistant chief counsel to Homeland Security Los Angeles from 2006 to 2008.
The special agent from the IRS-Criminal Investigations Division has worked for the IRS for four years in investigating federal criminal tax violations, money laundering and violations of the Bank Secrecy Act. More recently he was assigned as the cyber crime specialist for Los Angeles Field Office and joined the Digital Crimes Task Force with a focus on virtual currencies in criminal financial schemes.
As part of the Chapter's tradition and in the spirit of the holiday season, the Chapter selected Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking (CAST LA) as the charity to benefit from our 2013 year-end holiday event. Event attendees donated a total of $400 and, with the matching donations from the Chapter, we were able to raise a total of $800 in support of CAST LA. Among the help and assistance offered by CAST LA, the organization assists victims trafficked for the purpose of forced labor and slavery-like practices and, is committed to ending instances of such human rights violations. Sabrina Wong of CAST LA provided the following note expressing their appreciation of our charity efforts. We thank everyone for their support.
The Chapter also organized two other learning events in the second half of 2013: 1) a San Fernando/San Gabriel Valley Neighborhood Roundtable event held at the Wescom Credit Union's Pasadena facility (August 2013), and 2) an event, BSA/AML Risk Assessments, held at Wescom Credit Union's Anaheim facility (October 2013). The latter event was presented by Maleka Ali, director of Customer Relations at Bankers Toolbox Inc., and Darla Rebensdorf, principal at Rebensdorf Consulting.
The attendees at the San Fernando/San Gabriel Valley Neighborhood Roundtable event were able to share experiences and discuss topics such as CIP/CDD requirements on Beneficial Ownership, China wire transfers thresholds and methods used to circumvent the local regulatory reporting requirements, BSA examinations, and industry best practices in compliance.
Furthermore, the BSA/AML Risk Assessments event covered the approach to the Risk Assessment process, common errors and regulatory/audit criticisms, the essential risk components, risk mitigation techniques, quantitative and qualitative components, and best practices.
Lastly, and very importantly, the Chapter would like to congratulate our own Chapter Co-Chair, Elizabeth Slim, as the 2013 recipient of the ACAMS Al Gillum Volunteer of the Year Award. We thank Slim for her tireless efforts and her continued contributions to the Chapter and AML community.
In 2014, the Chapter pledges to continue in our efforts to serve members and other professionals in the AML community by continuing to provide professional growth and training opportunities, facilitating peer group discussions, and encouraging and developing partnerships between the financial services and law enforcement industries.
Chapter Board members at the year-end holiday event
Jeff Ross, SVP/BSA Officer at Green Dot Corporation
Chapter Secretary Maleka Ali, with Lisa Sindoni, account director, Thomson Reuters Accelus
Southern California, the sponsor of the holiday event
A great turnout at the San Fernando/San Gabriel Valley Neighborhood Roundtable event
Chapter Board members at the ACAMS 12th Annual AML & Financial Crime Conference in Las Vegas—and once again, congratulations to our Chapter Co-Chair, Elizabeth Slim, on her 2013 ACAMS Al Gillum Volunteer of the Year Award!