Brooklyn Federal Financial-Crime Unit Steps On Manhattan Turf

Brooklyn-based federal prosecutors will staff a new task force to investigate and charge corporations and individuals who use the U.S. banking system to launder money, setting up a bigger role in white-collar cases that have historically been dominated by their Manhattan counterparts.

Acting Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Seth DuCharme announced the Bank Integrity Task Force in an internal memo sent last month to staffers in the Eastern District of New York. DuCharme said recent investigations show that criminals around the world are using U.S. banks to launder trillions of dollars, including those tied to narcotics trafficking or terrorist financing. He vowed the new unit would seize or force the forfeiture of bank accounts, property and other assets derived from wrongdoing.

Brooklyn Federal Financial-Crime Unit Steps On Manhattan Turf

Such prosecutions have historically been the purview of federal prosecutors across the river in the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office, but the Brooklyn office has increased its profile in major financial-crimes cases in recent years, winning the convictions in 2017 of two former officials of FIFA, international soccer’s governing body, who accepted millions of dollars in bribes from sports-marketing companies and laundered the money through U.S. banks and financial institutions.

“As you know, the office has long successfully investigated and prosecuted the most sought-after money launderers in the world, and the individuals and companies behind the largest and most sophisticated corporate fraud schemes ever uncovered,” DuCharme said in the Nov. 19 memo. “In addition, our asset forfeiture recoveries have consistently ranked among the nation’s highest.”

Increased Activity

A recent proposal that would require investment advisers, including hedge funds and private equity firms, to adopt effective anti-money-laundering policies under the U.S. Bank Secrecy Act may create more work for the task force, DuCharme said. He also noted that banks’ expansion into cryptocurrency could lead to increased money-laundering activity.

The task force will be led by veteran prosecutor David Pitluck and will also work in tandem with the Justice Department’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section, its Office of International Affairs and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, DuCharme said.

It’s unclear how long DuCharme, who recently completed a stint in Washington as principal associate deputy attorney general under Attorney General William Barr, will continue to oversee the Brooklyn office. U.S. attorneys are political appointees, and President-elect Joe Biden is likely to nominate his own candidate for the office in due course. President Donald Trump’s administration fired U.S. attorneys en masse shortly after he took his office.

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