BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Today, North Alabama federal law enforcement agencies announced their participation and continuing engagement in the global law enforcement action against transnational money laundering and fraud perpetrated by “money mules”. The local North Alabama offices of the United States Attorney’s Office, Federal Bureau of Investigation, United States Postal Inspection Service, and U.S. Secret Service took part in the global enforcement action, which has acted against more than 2,300 suspected money mules. U.S. federal law enforcement agencies and Europol worked simultaneously in the Money Mule Initiative and the European Money Mule Action.
Over the last two months, U.S. law enforcement agencies took action against over 2,300 money mules. Northern District of Alabama law enforcement agencies are continuing to investigate and engage suspected money mules. This year’s Money Mule Initiative is the third annual crackdown against money mules involved in a wide range of schemes including lottery fraud, romance scams, government imposter fraud, technical support fraud, business email compromise or CEO fraud, and unemployment insurance fraud that tend to target the elderly and other vulnerable populations.
Money mules are people who receive and move money obtained from victims of fraud. Some money mules know they have been recruited to assist criminal activity, but others become money mules without realizing their activity is benefiting fraudsters. Often, money mules are engaged by responding to a seemingly legitimate advertisement or social media post that promises easy money for little effort, or by helping someone they have met online or over the phone by agreeing to receive and transfer money, packages, gift cards, or virtual currency that support the global movement and laundering of criminal goods and finances.
“Federal law enforcement agencies continue to work tirelessly to protect victims from the many complex criminal schemes that seek to defraud consumers, businesses, and vulnerable populations,” said U.S. Attorney Prim F. Escalona. “Federal prosecutors and law enforcement remain determined in their fight against both the root and branch of criminal enterprises that deceive and harm our communities and citizens. Our office and our Elder Justice Coordinator will continue to reach out to North Alabama communities to educate citizens and communities on how best to recognize money mules and prevent financial fraud.”
“Acting as a money mule—allowing others to use your bank account, or conducting financial transactions on behalf of others, jeopardizes your financial security and compromises your personally identifiable information,” said Johnnie Sharp, Jr., Special Agent in Charge, FBI Birmingham Division. “Protect yourself by refusing to send or receive money on behalf of individuals and businesses for which you are not personally and professionally responsible. To report suspicious activity, please visit the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov.”
“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) is charged with defending the nation’s mail system from illegal use, no matter where those crimes originate,” said Adrian Gonzalez, Inspector-in-Charge of the Houston Division. “The number and variety of schemes that target our most vulnerable populations, including the elderly, are numerous and the effects of those schemes can be devastating to the victim and their families. Today’s challenging economy deems it critical that we give consumers tools to guard against losing their hard-earned money to these money mules. Postal Inspectors will continue to work with the U.S. Attorney’s Office as well as our local, state and federal law enforcement partners in investigating these crimes and bringing the perpetrators to justice.”
“The U.S. Secret Service remains steadfast in its investigative pursuit of money mules who are either knowingly or unknowingly attempting to hide and/or transfer illicit funds,” said Patrick M. Davis, Special Agent in Charge of the Birmingham Field Office. “The U.S. Secret Service will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to thoroughly investigate these crimes, seize unlawfully obtained funds and/or goods, and seek federal prosecution for those involved.”
Earlier this year Attorney General Barr declared “Prevention and Disruption of Transnational Elder Fraud” to be an Agency Priority Goal, making it one of the Department’s four top priorities. The best method for prevention of elder fraud is sharing information about the various types of elder fraud schemes with relatives, friends, neighbors, and other seniors who can use that information to protect themselves. To find public education materials, as well as information about how fraudsters use and recruit money mules, please visit the Department of Justice’s Money Mule Initiative website – Don’t Be A Mule. More information about the Department’s efforts to help American seniors is available at its Elder Justice Initiative webpage (https://www.justice.gov/elderjustice). If you or someone you know is age 60 or older and has been a victim of financial fraud, help is standing by at the National Elder Fraud Hotline: 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311).