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Thread: Federal ‘El Dorado’ task force targets kleptocrats who wash billions in South Florida

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    Senior Member Beezer's Avatar
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    Federal ‘El Dorado’ task force targets kleptocrats who wash billions in South Florida

    Federal ‘El Dorado’ task force targets kleptocrats who wash billions in South Florida









    Jay Weaver

    ,Miami Herald


    August 7, 2020







    In the bad old days of Miami Vice, the feds fixated on chasing after narco-traffickers like Pablo Escobar and grabbing their drugs and cash.

    But as the city morphed into a global hub of commerce, it also turned into a massive washing machine for cleaning all variety of illicit money.

    Billions started cascading into South Florida banks, waterfront condos and exotic cars — the bulk of it stolen by politically connected kleptocrats from Venezuela and other Latin American countries.

    While federal authorities have pursued the pervasive crime of money laundering over the past decade, it’s only in the past year that Homeland Security Investigations and the U.S. Attorney’s Office joined forces to confront it head-on.

    HSI launched a task force, modeled after one in New York, called “El Dorado South.” Prosecutors followed suit with their own money laundering section.

    “It’s a perfect storm of foreign public corruption and money laundering,” Miami HSI’s special agent in charge, Anthony Salisbury, told the Miami Herald in a recent interview on the joint crackdown.

    “This is the definition of the corrupt rich making themselves richer,” he said. “These guys would make the narcos blush, and they do it under the guise of legitimacy.”

    The El Dorado South task force was started in 2018 but its focus on money laundering crimes had already been one of the main missions of Homeland Security Investigations dating back a couple of decades, Salisbury said. El Dorado, with dozens of local, state and federal law enforcement members, brought HSI’s various financial crimes units under one roof.






    Late pop superstar Michael Jackson’s crystal-studded glove.HSI’s money laundering investigators in Miami have seized more than $1 billion in assets — including the late pop superstar Michael Jackson’s crystal-studded white glove from his “Bad” tour (valued at $275,000) and other Jackson memorabilia (worth $827,000) that had belonged to an Equatorial Guinea vice president, according to court records.

    The agency’s foreign corruption cases have resulted in about 250 arrests, but some defendants, including several in Venezuela, remain at large.

    More than half of those assets — $653 million — have been seized from U.S. and Swiss bank accounts, including $250 million turned over last year by Venezuela’s former national treasurer, Alejandro Andrade, who is serving a 10-year prison sentence for embezzling billions from his government along with alleged co-conspirator, Caracas TV network mogul Raul Gorrin. He is wanted in Miami on a money laundering and foreign corruption indictment.

    Millions in horses, houses, cars

    HSI’s task force has also confiscated $296 million in horses, watches and other personal assets; $72 million in real estate; and about $5 million in vehicles — including last month’s seizure of more than 80 luxury cars and SUVs bound for Venezuela’s political and business elite in a ring allegedly run by Gorrin, according to authorities. Gorrin’s defense attorney denied his involvement.

    El Dorado South is structured like the only other task force like it in the country, founded in New York by Customs agents in 1992.

    HSI’s Kevin Tyrrell, who heads the group, said it was the brainchild of longtime Miami money laundering investigator John Tobon, who tried for years to persuade prosecutors that the crime was not just about drug traffickers trying to hide their unlawful profits in U.S. bank accounts and other assets like pricey real estate.

    Money laundering spanned a spectrum of crimes, from foreign corruption to gold smuggling, and entailed the use of shell companies, straw owners and sham documents to hide the identities of criminals.

    Tyrrell said that criminals have become increasingly sophisticated, knowing they can’t just walk into a bank with $100,000 in cash and deposit the money.

    Bankers won’t risk depositing it without knowing where it came from, because they are obligated under the Bank Secrecy Act to ask how the money was earned. So instead of taking their dirty money to banks, many criminals use the cash to buy high-value investments or seemingly legitimate businesses.

    “It’s a constant game of cat and mouse,” Tyrrell said. “As criminal activity has evolved, so has money laundering. These are professional money launderers. They have developed an expertise to move money illegally through the banking system.”

    Dirty money in plain sight


    The extent of suspicious money laundering was in such plain sight to Ariana Fajardo Orshan after she took over as the U.S. attorney in the fall of 2018 that she proposed creating a money laundering section in her office — independent of similar units already in the narcotics and economic crimes sections.

    Fajardo told her staff that while she was driving around Miami at night, she was struck by the number of high-rise condos with no lights on, suggesting they were investment properties purchased mostly by foreign buyers. “How can people buy multimillion-dollar condos and not live in them?” Fajardo told her staff.

    The money laundering section was launched in March 2019. Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Forand, who heads the section, said the mandate was “to follow the money and where it flows.”

    Forand said the goal is to “disrupt the flow of money” through both criminal and civil forfeitures connected to any type of illegal activity.

    “It’s all about getting their assets and making sure you get all their toys,” he said.

    “It’s a big weapon of deterrence.”

    Earlier this summer, his office filed a lawsuit to seize a luxury high-rise condo overlooking Biscayne Bay belonging to a minister of parliament in the Republic of the Congo.

    Denis-Christel Sassou Nguesso, whose father has been president of the oil-rich Central African nation since the late 1970s, transferred millions of dollars through an unknown associate to bank accounts in South Florida to buy the condo for $2.8 million in the 900 Biscayne Bay tower, court records show.

    Prosecutors said the president’s son bought the 3,500-square-foot penthouse apartment with money stolen from the Congo’s national oil company and are suing to seize the condo in what they describe as an alleged “international money laundering conspiracy.”

    The biggest catch for prosecutors and the El Dorado South investigators so far: Andrade, Venezuela’s former national treasurer. He wrote several checks totaling $250 million to the U.S. government last fall, after the money had been transferred from his Swiss bank account to his defense attorneys in Miami. That payment was counted towards a $1 billion forfeiture judgment against him.

    Andrade also lost the following in federal seizures: six South Florida real estate properties, including a Wellington horse farm; a waterfront Palm Beach residence and a Pinecrest estate ($33 million); as well as 14 show-jumping horses ($2 million), 35 designer watches ($1.5 million) and a fleet of 10 exotic foreign cars ($1 million), according to authorities.







    One of former Venezuelan national treasurer Alejandro Andrade’s show horses in Wellington.Other recent notable seizures:

    A waterfront Cocoplum estate and a Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe that once belonged to Andrade’s alleged co-conspirator, Gorrin.

    He is accused of stealing billions from Venezuela’s state-run oil company and kicking back funds to the former treasurer. The feds are targeting his 6,000-square-foot home, which had been on the market for $8 million, and the $200,000 Rolls convertible — along with 20 other real estate properties worth tens of millions of dollars in the Miami area and Manhattan.

    “The kleptocrats are stealing from their own people and their own country,” HSI’s Salisbury said. “One or two percent of the country’s wealth goes to the elites connected to [President Nicolas] Maduro. That’s what these cases are all about.”





    https://news.yahoo.com/federal-el-do...100000077.html
    Last edited by Beezer; 08-08-2020 at 09:34 AM.
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    TO BECOME AN AMERICAN YOU MUST CHANGE YOUR VALUES ...NOT YOUR LOCATION

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  2. #2
    Senior Member Beezer's Avatar
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    Foreign citizens should not be allowed to buy up our real estate. Lease only.

    End Dual Citizenship and Birthright citizenship.

    These foreign citizens of these corrupt countries are ripping us off, driving up real estate prices, and conducting their corrupt activities on our soil and our government swamp rats and allowing it.
    TO BECOME AN AMERICAN YOU MUST CHANGE YOUR VALUES ...NOT YOUR LOCATION

    STAY HOME AND BUILD AMERICA ON YOUR SOIL

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    29-story office tower in Kentucky secretly owned by billionaire Ukrainian oligarchs, feds say




    Andrew Wolfson, Louisville Courier Journal







    August 8, 2020, 10:54 AM










    The former PNC Plaza office tower at 500 West Jefferson Street in downtown Louisville. Fri, Aug. 7, 2020.Corrections & Clarifications: An earlier version of this story misstated the home country of Ihor Kolomoisky and Gennadiy Boholiubov. They are Ukrainian.



    LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Federal prosecutors are suing to seize control of the building in downtown Louisville formerly known as PNC Plaza, alleging it is secretly owned by billionaire Ukrainian oligarchs and used to
    launder billions of dollars they plundered from a bank they owed in the eastern European country.

    In a lawsuit filed this week in Miami, the government says the oligarchs and their operatives in the United States bought the 29-story office tower — as well as property in Dallas and Cleveland — with money “traceable to an international conspiracy to launder money embezzled and fraudulently obtained from the bank.”

    The scheme was run in the United States by Ukrainians operating out of a 55th-floor penthouse office in Miami using companies with some variation of the name “Optima,” according to the lawsuit.

    The Louisville tower at 500 W. Jefferson St. was purchased in 2011 by Optima Management Group LLC for $77 million, but it ran into hard times after the largest tenant, PNC Financial Services, moved out.

    The 580,000-square-foot building was purchased out of receivership last year by New York-based Somera Road Inc., according to an article in Business First, but the government’s forfeiture suit says 95% is still owned by an Optima affiliate.

    US intel: Russia working to defeat Biden; China and Iran prefer Trump defeat
    Jefferson County property records show the owner is listed as 500 West Jefferson Street LLC, and corporate records show the sole owner of the company is Ruairidh Henderson, who works for Somera Road in New York.

    But in a telephone interview Friday, Henderson said he had never heard of the building and didn’t know anything about it.

    In a follow-up interview, when a reporter pointed out that Somera Road was listed as the buyer in a published account — and that a plaque with its name is posted in the lobby — he declined to comment further.

    Louisville attorney Don Cox, whose law firm has been in the building for about 10 years, said he was shocked to learn about the background of its secret owner.
    The government said that over the course of more than a decade, billionaires Igor Kolomoisky and Gennadiy Boholiubov used their control of PrivatBank to steal billions of dollars of its funds.

    The losses were so great that Ukraine had to bail out the bank by providing $5.5 billion to stave off an economic crisis for the country.

    In 2017, Kolomoisky, one of the world’s richest men, went into self-imposed exile in Switzerland and then Israel after the government seized his prize asset, Privatbank, and accused him of embezzling billions of dollars, The New York Times reported.

    He returned to Ukraine after the comic Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a former business partner of the oligarch, was elected president last year.








    The former PNC Plaza office tower at 500 West Jefferson Street in downtown Louisville. Fri, Aug. 7, 2020.FBI agents this week raided Optima properties in Cleveland and Miami, according to press reports.

    The suit says dozens of Optima entities in the U.S. were managed by a man named Mordechai Korf, also known as “Motti,” a Miami-based business associate of Kolomoisky and Boholiubov.

    Cox said he saw Korf in the building and he appeared to be managing it.
    The government said PrivatBank accounted for about one-fourth of the banking sector in Ukraine and one-third of the individual deposit accounts, but that after Kolomoisky and Boholiubov looted it, it was nationalized in 2016.

    Prosecutors say the basic idea of the scheme was simple. Kolomoisky and Boholiubov requested money from PrivatBank, which, based on their control and ownership, they always received.

    They rarely paid the loans back, except through new loans, the suit says.
    The mechanics of the scheme were complex, according to the government. Kolomoisky and Boholiubov used a substantial collection of companies they owned or controlled to apply for loans from PrivatBank.

    An army of functionaries at PrivatBank then papered and processed the loans as if they were legitimate.

    A “special” credit committee at the bank approved the loans, despite misrepresentations in the applications.

    When the loans came due, other loans were used to pay off the old loans, or, in some cases, they were repaid with income from the investment of the misappropriated money, the suit says.

    Kolomoisky’s Boston-based attorney, Michael Sullivan, did not immediately respond to a request for a comment.

    Follow Andrew Wolfson on Twitter: @adwolfson

    This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Louisville high-rise was purchased by Ukrainian embezzlers, feds say


    https://www.yahoo.com/news/29-story-...223501747.html



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    STAY HOME AND BUILD AMERICA ON YOUR SOIL

  4. #4
    Senior Member Beezer's Avatar
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    How many hundreds of billions of dollars of our real estate and housing do these foreigners own?

    Post articles here if you can. Thank you.

    No more foreigners buying up OUR land and real estate!
    TO BECOME AN AMERICAN YOU MUST CHANGE YOUR VALUES ...NOT YOUR LOCATION

    STAY HOME AND BUILD AMERICA ON YOUR SOIL

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    Senior Member Beezer's Avatar
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    We need to change our laws to stop this. Including the Trump family!
    TO BECOME AN AMERICAN YOU MUST CHANGE YOUR VALUES ...NOT YOUR LOCATION

    STAY HOME AND BUILD AMERICA ON YOUR SOIL

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