75 Years of irs criminal Investigation History

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Henry Huihui

Henry Huihui was the syndicate leader in Hawaii, ascending from the ranks of the Winford "Nappy" Pulawa family that con­trolled organized crime in Hawaii during the 1960's and early 1970's. Huihui was convicted on various tax charges in 1975 and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Michael Franzese

Michael Franzese, the subject of numerous television news reports, who at the age of 34 became one of the richest and most powerful New York crime family heads, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for income tax, labor racketeering, and mail fraud charges. Franzese was the target of a 3-year investigation by the Brooklyn Organized Crime Strike Force. In a unique twist, at his sentencing the government sought and obtained a judgement against Franzese whereby he admitted to having evaded taxes on over $7 million in income during the years 1979 through 1985. Franzese was the key defendant in a 99-page, 28-count indictment. This investiga­tion successfully prosecuted a total of 13 defendants.

All 13 received sentences of 2 to 10 years in prison, fines, and probation.

Money Laundering

The Criminal Investigation Division's Money Laundering Program is the compli­ance effort to address criminal violations of the Bank Secrecy Act, the Money Laundering Control Act of 1986, and 6050(1) of the Internal Revenue Code (Form 8300 filing requirements).

In 1970, the Congress, at the urging and with the support of the Treasuiy Depart­ment and other law enforcement agencies, enacted a succession of laws to enable law enforcement officials to detect and prose­cute drug trafficking and other criminal activities which generate large amounts of illegal proceeds, and the laundering of those proceeds. The "Bank Secrecy Act" (BSA), enacted in 1970, gives the Treasury Department authority to require the filing of reports and maintenance of records that have been determined to have a high degree of usefulness in enforcement of criminal, civil, and regulatory laws.

Under the authority of the BSA, Treasury's regulations impose four major reporting requirements. The Currency Transaction Report (CTR), requires desig­nated financial institutions to report case transactions exceeding $10,000. The Currency Transaction Report by Casinos (CTRC), requires that casinos report cur­rency transactions in excess of $10,000. The Report of International Transportation of Currency or Monetary Instruments (CMIR), requires that all persons report the import or export of currency and cer­tain other monetary instruments in excess of $10,000 into or out of the United States. Finally, the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR), requires per­sons to make an annual report of their pro­prietary interest in foreign accounts which exceed $10,000.

Treasury Delegation Order #15-41 dele­gated criminal jurisdiction over all finan­cial institutions and civil jurisdiction over any financial insitution not under the regu­latory supervision of other federal banking agencies or the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to the IRS. Also, IRS was delegated responsibility for civil juris­diction over all miscellaneous financial institutions for which oversight authority has not otherwise been delegated. Approx­imately 25,000 miscellaneous financial institutions have been identified to date, and the count continues to expand.

In 1984, section 6050(1) was added to the Internal Revenue Code to require trades or businesses not subject to the Bank Secrecy Act to report (on IRS Form 8300) receipt of cash involving more than $10,000.

In 1986, Congress passed the Money Laundering Control Act, which created offenses for money laundering and for knowingly engaging in monetary transac­tions in property derived from certain criminal activity (18 U.S.C. 1956 and 1957). Violations of these provisions very often involve conduct designed to avoid the reporting requirements of the BSA. Further, the "structuring" or breaking up of large amounts of cash into amounts below the $10,000 reporting threshold, to avoid the BSA reporting requirements, was expressly made criminal. Willful vio­lations of the provisions of the BSA, sec­tion 6050(1) and the money laundering statutes can result in severe criminal and civil penalties and forfeitures.

Aggressive enforcement of the various money laundering statues has resulted in a growth in the filings of the various cur­rency reporting forms, particularly the CTR forms and 8300 form. The following chart reflects the number of these forms filed in recent years.

Summary of Number of CTR/830O Document Filings For FY' 87 — FY' 93

Form CTR




















1993 10,219 136,987

(number in ihe thousands, for example 1991, 7,229,000)

Investigative Efforts and Results

Over the past decade, the Title 31 report­ing requirements and the CTR provision in particular have emerged as the primary statutory weapon against money launder­ing. Criminal Investigation has, with great success, devoted substantial resources to the enforcement of Title 31. Our experi­ence with Title 31 investigations has uncovered the existence of numerous large-scale money laundering organiza­tions that are in the business of devising sophisticated schemes to conceal the source and amounts of taxable revenue earned.

Significant Cases

Ramon Milan-Rodriguez

On May 4, 1983, following extensive sur­veillance, Milan-Rodriguez loaded his Lear jet at Fort Lauderdale International Airport with approximately twenty boxes suspected of containing U.S. currency. The aircraft was stopped by Operation Greenback agents and an outbound search was conducted. The twenty boxes were found to contain $5.4 million in U.S. currency.

By his own admission, Milan-Rodriguez had transported or moved more than $1 billion in U.S. currency for his clients over the past seven to ten years. During inter­views with special agents, he admitted laundering from $17 million to $25 million

per month and was turning additional business away. He admitted to earning more than $1 million per year as a money exchanger and courier, and that many of his clients were alleged to be involved in large-scale narcotics activities.

Milan-Rodriguez was convicted on cur­rency, narcotics, and tax charges and on January 2, 1986, he was sentenced to serve 35 years in prison and fined $6.49 million.

Carlos Sarmiento and Robert Del Pino

From August 1985 through February 1986, Criminal Investigation undercover agents laundered money on behalf of a Colombian cocaine trafficking group. These agents received currency from Sarmiento's organi­zation on 20 occasions. The currency was either converted to cashier's checks which were returned to the organization or wire transferred out of the undercover account. The operation identified the members of the Sarmiento organization as well as numerous "stash houses" where the cur­rency was accumulated.

Agents in Miami and Los Angeles laun­dered approximately $18 million and seized approximately $12.5 million. Also, 270 pounds of cocaine was seized during the operation. As a result of this investiga­tion, ten individuals were indicted in Los Angeles and Miami.

Guillermo A. Garces, et al.

During October 1985, information was received that Garces and three other Colombian nationals were repeatedly purchasing money orders with currency at various banks in Florida. It was later deter­mined that Garces had only been visiting Florida, and he actually resided at a con­dominium complex in Fort Lee, New Jersey.

During the next six months, special agents began a surveillance of Garces' res­idence and identified numerous members of his organization. The investigation was brought to a conclusion on September 4, 1986, when special agents executed search warrants at three different locations and seized 307 kilograms (675 pounds) of cocaine and $950,000 in currency and money orders. In all, eight members of the ring were arrested and subsequently con­victed on numerous felony charges.

Bank of Boston

In February 1985, the First National Bank of Boston pled guilty to a felony charge that it failed to inform the IRS about $1.2 billion in cash that it exchanged with nine European banks. The case generated media coverage throughout the country and even resulted in congressional hearings.

Narcotics Projects

Narcotics Traffickers Project

In June 1971, President Richard M. Nixon called for an increased effort to combat the growing problem of drug abuse. A Target Selection Committee, composed of Treasury's Director of Law Enforcement, with members from the Bureau of Customs, the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, and the Audit and Intelligence Divisions of IRS was formed. It established criteria and identified sub­jects for investigation.

In July 1971, IRS established the Narcotics Traffickers Project (NTP), designed to make systematic high priority tax investigations of middle and upper echelon narcotics dealers. Specially assigned revenue agents, special agents, and revenue officers worked exclusively on the project. Jeopardy and termination assessments were utilized in an aggressive manner against narcotics traffickers.

In March 1974, NTP activities were integrated into the IRS' regular tax enforcement effort and on September 24, 1975, the Narcotics Traffickers Program was formally abolished.

High-Level Drug Leaders Tax Enforcement Program

On April 27, 1976, President Gerald R. Ford directed that a tax enforcement pro­gram be developed for high-level drug trafficking. President Ford, in his message to Congress, stated, "We know that many of the biggest drug leaders do not pay income taxes on the enormous profits they made in this criminal activity. I am confident that a responsible program can be designed which will promote effective enforcement of the tax laws against those individuals who are currently violating these laws with impunity."

As a result of this directive, the High-Level Drug Leaders (HLDL) Tax Enforcement Project was initiated in July 1976. The HLDL Project focused on high-level traffickers, investors, brokers, bankers, and money laundering specialists, pursued both tax violations (Title 26) and banking violations (Title 31, Bank Secrecy Act). In July 1976, IRS signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) which set forth the roles of the agencies in a joint, cooperative effort to identify and investigate high-level targets. This was updated in February 1980. IRS and DEA signed a joint Memorandum of Cooperation in June 1980, which stressed, to the respective field personnel, a need to cooperate by sharing information as allowed by law (IRC 6103) and to con­duct joint criminal investigations. This lat­ter Memorandum also reaffirmed a joint commitment for an effective effort by both agencies against major narcotics traffickers who also violate the tax laws.

The Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act (TEFRA) permitted the Service to pre­sume that, unless the individual identifies another person as the owner, the individual in possession of $10,000 or more in cash is the owner, and (1) the cash represents gross income of that individual, (2) the owner shall be taxed at a 50 percent rate and, (3) collection of the tax is in jeopardy. This resulted in numerous assessments; for example, an individual was assessed over $60,000 after she was found departing Kennedy Airport with $120,065 in cur­rency. In another case, an individual was discovered to have $131,400 in cash. This resulted in an assessment of $65,700.

Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Program

In January 1982, President Ronald Reagan established the South Florida Task Force to organize a coordinated attack against drug traffickers and their organiza­tions in South Florida. This task force served as a prototype for broad-based, interagency efforts in interdiction, investigation, and prosecution.

In October 1982, President Reagan established the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Program, a major interagency drug inves­tigative initiative which expanded the original concept into 13 distinct OCDETF Regions under the auspices of a core city U.S. Attorney. The original participating Federal agencies included: the BATF, DEA, FBI, IRS, the U.S. Attorneys' offices, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Customs Service, and the U.S. Marshals Service. The Immigration and Naturalization Service subsequently joined the program. OCDETF brings together expert financial investigators from IRS and Customs, working hand in hand with experts from FBI, DEA, and BATF in documenting substantive viola­tions. Through joint investigations, the financial history of the entire trafficking organization can be developed.

With the implementation of the OCDETF Program in 1983, Criminal Investigation provided the largest commitment of resour­ces of any Treasury agency. In addition, procedures relating to grand juries were streamlined and review processes were expedited for OCDETF cases.

Internal Revenue special agents have been recognized in the task forces as financial experts. One reason for this recognition is the Service's unique ability to identify the "professionals" in our soci­ety who profit from involvement in nar­cotics trafficking. This classification includes lawyers who finance traffickers' organizations and help launder narcotics money. It also includes the accountants who keep the books and disguise the source of narcotics proceeds. It includes doctors, engineers, stockbrokers, and wealthy businesspeople who have financed shipments of narcotics. Historically, these individuals were not often targeted by drug law enforcement agencies because there was no firm informational or evidentiary link between them and narcotics. The only viable means of attack against this class of criminal is through financial investigations, where the paper trail of money earned from the sale of narcotics is tracked to its ultimate beneficiaries.

The success of Criminal Investigation's involvement in the OCDETF Program is reflected in the following table:

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