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Homeland Security

Washington File

08 July 2003

U.S. Boosts Money Laundering Investigation Capabilities

(Homeland Security Dept. also to help private sector eliminate
vulnerabilities) (920)
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has launched a new initiative
intended to intensify investigations of money laundering crimes and
help the private sector shore up weaknesses in financial systems.
In July 8 remarks at the New York Federal Reserve, Homeland Security
Secretary Tom Ridge said that the department has taken action in
response to criminal organizations' attempts to seek new ways to
finance their operations.
Operation Cornerstone, as the initiative is known, aims at identifying
ways in which criminals launder their illegal profits, bringing them
to justice and eliminating vulnerabilities in financial systems,
according to a July 8 department news release.
The department also announced a new program to share with the private
sector data on security gaps discovered during investigations to help
private companies improve defenses against money laundering and other
financial crimes. In addition, the department said, it is expanding a
task force that investigates computer-based crimes.
Following is the text of the news release:
(begin text)
Office of the Press Secretary
July 8, 2003
Unveils Comprehensive New Programs to Protect U.S. Financial Systems
from Criminal Exploitation
NEW YORK, NY -- In a speech at the New York Federal Reserve, the
Secretary of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge, today announced programs to
safeguard the nation's financial systems against criminal
exploitation. Two of the many actions being taken by the Department of
Homeland Security (DHS) include the creation of a new financial crimes
investigative initiative and an expansion of already successful
electronics crime task forces. Secretary Ridge also announced a
groundbreaking initiative designed to share specific information with
the nation's top financial institutions, about financial systems
weaknesses discovered through the Department's criminal
Secretary Ridge announced Operation Cornerstone, a new financial
investigations initiative that will not only prosecute money
laundering crimes but will initiate a new approach of working with the
private sector to shore up potential weaknesses in financial systems.
In short, Operation Cornerstone, run by the Bureau of Immigration and
Customs Enforcement (ICE), is a new financial investigations program
that will identify vulnerabilities in financial systems through which
criminals launder their illicit proceeds, bring the criminals to
justice and work to eliminate the vulnerabilities. Through a working
partnership with industry representatives, ICE will share information
learned from these investigations to eliminate industry-wide security
gaps that could be exploited by money launderers and other criminal
Secretary Ridge also announced that the Secret Service is expanding
its highly successful Electronic Crimes Task Forces to four additional
cities. The Secret Service currently runs task forces in 9 cities. The
four new cities are Cleveland, Houston, Dallas and Columbia, South
Carolina. The 9 existing task forces are operating in New York, Los
Angeles, Miami, Charlotte, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Boston, Chicago,
and Washington, D.C.
These task forces investigate a wide range of computer-based criminal
activity. Examples include e-commerce [electronic commerce] frauds,
identity crimes, telecommunications fraud, and a wide variety of
computer intrusion crimes that affect a variety of infrastructures.
Since its inception in 1995, the New York Electronic Crimes Task Force
alone has charged over 800 people with electronic crimes valued at
more than $500 million.
Earlier in the day Secretary Ridge toured the Secret Service's
Electronic Crimes Task Force in New York, as well as ICE's El Dorado
Task Force. The El Dorado Task Force has investigated numerous money
laundering and other financial crimes since its inception in 1992. In
eleven years El Dorado Task Force agents have arrested 1,753
individuals and seized nearly $560 million in criminal proceeds.
"Safeguarding the integrity of America's financial systems is a key
part of homeland security," said Secretary Ridge. "Criminal
organizations are seeking new ways to finance their operations, and
the Department of Homeland Security is moving aggressively to identify
vulnerabilities within U.S. financial systems that could be exploited
to those ends."
To aid the financial industry in its own efforts to shore up
vulnerabilities in its systems, Secretary Ridge announced a new
program jointly run by ICE and the Secret Service. Under this new
program called SHARE (Systematic Homeland Approach to Reducing
Exploitation), officials from the Secret Service and ICE will jointly
conduct semi-annual meetings with executive members of the financial
and trade communities impacted by money laundering, identity theft,
and other financial crimes. In these meetings special agents and
analysts from the two Homeland Security agencies will share data on
specific investigative outcomes from investigations into money
laundering, identity theft, and other financial crimes.
By taking the Secret Service's long experience with investigating
crimes like counterfeiting, identity theft and credit card fraud, and
ICE's long experience with investigating illegal efforts to launder or
mask the true source of criminal proceeds -- and sharing that
experience with the financial community, American pocketbooks and bank
accounts will be far safer, Secretary Ridge explained in his remarks.
Before his speech, Secretary Ridge met with leaders from the top
financial institutions to brief them on the new initiative. "It's
critical we work in partnership with the financial community,"
Secretary Ridge told the financial leaders. "Unless we share the
specific findings of our investigations, we run the risk that our
nation's financial systems will remain vulnerable to exploitation. We
can't let that happen."
Secretary Ridge announced that the first meeting under the SHARE
program will take place by mid-October.
(end text)
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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