Friday, October 14, 2011 : County sheriff's office rewarded for assistance in federal investigation
Online gamblers in South Carolina's Greenville County were interviewed by Secret Service and US Attorney Office officials and county sheriff deputies investigating an alleged $40 million money laundering scheme with online poker connotations, according to reports in the state mainstream media this week.
The federal authorities had been investigating online poker in the state since October 2010, officials revealed in announcing that they had cracked the scheme, which involved two offshore shell companies titled Prime Investment Ltd. and Trading 24/7 Ltd. that were used to launder $40 million in under a year for poker enterprises.
The two companies defrauded U.S. banks by using them to run an unidentified online gambling empire, the officials claimed, noting that the UIGEA forbids financial transactions with illegal offshore online gambling companies.
"We're looking at this from a global picture," Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill Watkins told reporters. "It's
about the integrity of our financial system. Individuals laundering money, sending much of that money into the United States, and hiding the source of it. Now, we've got their money."
Federal investigators seized more than $2 million in criminal assets in the state. More than $700,000 of these seized funds was awarded to the Greenville County Sheriff's Office, where deputies helped the federal officers follow the money trail by digging into thousands of wire transfers from online gamblers.
The investigations were assisted by information obtained in interviews with the online gamblers behind the transactions.
"We determined, thanks to their [Sheriff's office] efforts, that this was gambling money and we could not find any legitimate source of business for these companies," Watkins said.
Secret Service agent Thomas Griffin told Channel 9 that there were hundreds of online poker players around the state of South Carolina, largely upstate.
U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles emphasised that the point of the investigation is not to prosecute online poker players. He also revealed that so far, there have been no arrests because the major crimes were committed by overseas businesses.
Nettles claimed that the investigation is bigger than illegal gambling — it's about the security of US banks and US money.
"Using relationships with foreign banks, these two companies were engaging in dubious business activities," Nettles said. "When you certify that something is true, whether it has to do with your mortgage or your loan or where the money is coming from, if you lie about it, that's a federal offense."
Amid speculation that the enquiries are connected with Black Friday enforcement action, the Secret Service said the investigation is still ongoing.