Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
The Courts

FBI To Prosecute "Money Mules" 215

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the sorry-about-that-nigeria-thing dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A top FBI official said today that the agency is planning a law enforcement sweep against so-called 'money mules,' individuals willingly or unwittingly roped into helping organized computer crooks launder money stolen through online banking fraud, writes Krebsonsecurity.com. The author says he has interviewed more than 150 money mules, and find most fit into one of two camps: the not-so-bright, and those who suspect something's not right, but do it anyway. From the story: 'I find most mules fit into the latter group, and you can usually tell because these individuals often will admit to having set up a new account for the job separate from where they keep their meager savings or checking. When pressed as to why they did this, if they're honest most will say they weren't sure about the whole arrangement and wanted to protect their investments just in case their employers turned out to be less-than-honest.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

FBI To Prosecute "Money Mules"

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @04:07PM (#32186750)

    ...the agency is planning a law enforcement sweep against so-called "money mules," individuals willingly or unwittingly roped into helping...

    See usually if your the victim of fraud, you're considered the victim, the FBI thinks it would be better to prosecute them however.

  • Re:What? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hypergreatthing (254983) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @04:07PM (#32186752)

    You know... if stupidity was illegal just about everyone would be prosecuted.

    I always thought that intent was important when being charged with a crime.

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @04:15PM (#32186810)

    You needn't find a way around the crackdown. You just have to put a few more layers of confusion around it and you'll find enough people stupid and gullible to fall for it.

    People are stupid. It's how we want them to be. If they wouldn't be stupid, they wouldn't be good consumers.

  • But wait (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fustakrakich (1673220) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @04:15PM (#32186814) Journal

    They're going to have to arrest every member of the federal reserve... And what the hell do they think Wall Street is?

  • financial fraud? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by drDugan (219551) * on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @04:17PM (#32186826) Homepage

    So let's make sure we're all clear: The FBI, the federal US law enforcement, is cracking down on financial fraud. Great.

    They are going after dumb people who set up a bank account to launder a couple thousand dollars?

    But they're not going after institutional traders who now offer co-location services with enhanced market data feeds, fueling high frequency trading? They are not going after the banking cartels who manipulate the whole economy? They are not going after Paypal for (among numerous things) blatantly lying about international exchange rates? or on and on and on from examples of large, institutionalized financial fraud?

  • People are prosecuted for receiving stolen goods all the time. How is this much different?
  • by Opportunist (166417) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @04:18PM (#32186840)

    Either we want stupid people because they're easier to control. Or we want smart people because they don't fall so easily for con artists. Make up your mind government! It's unfair to cultivate stupidity and teach everyone that you're better off stupid (and if your stupidity causes you harm, sue someone because he didn't protect you from being stupid enough to hurt yourself, while at the same time being "too stupid to do it" is a valid excuse, while knowing "how to do it" can be incriminating) and then go and punish them for doing what's expected from them!

  • Re:But wait (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BitZtream (692029) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @04:19PM (#32186850)

    legal money laundering

    The government gets taxes out of it in most cases, so they don't mind so much what happens on wall street or who they steal it from.

  • by KDR_11k (778916) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @04:20PM (#32186858)

    They're going for money laundering, i.e. schemes set up to hide the origin of illegally gained money. No matter what crap banks pull with their money, it's at least legally gained and not relevant for money laundering investigations. Checking financial markets is a different department.

  • by geekoid (135745) <`moc.oohay' `ta' `dnaltropnidad'> on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @04:26PM (#32186922) Homepage Journal

    arrest all the people that worked at Enron. Clearly if you boss is doing something criminal all the employees should go to jail.

  • Re:What? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jellomizer (103300) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @04:27PM (#32186928)

    I would say that Everyone would be prosecuted. We all have our moments where we just didn't think things threw, or let your emotions get in the way of good reason... Sure a lot of people on slashdot will deny this. Because they built their reputation on seeming that they are smarter then everyone else... However in reality we all do stupid things... Especially if there is a pretty woman asking you to do it.

  • "smart people because they don't fall so easily for con artists. "

    Intelligence has little to do with getting conned.

  • by CorporateSuit (1319461) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @04:30PM (#32186958)
    Hey Hey Hey... you know? When it's 4:00pm on Friday afternoon, and you've got a big fishing trip planned for the weekend, and you just want to see your wife after a long day of paperwork, and your boss comes in and says:

    Hey buddy, I got a project for you. I want you to bust some of these financial fraud guys. We have some names you can start with here. On the first list, there are suspected money mules, and on the second list are a bunch of insanely-powerful superbankers that, upon learning of your very existence, will hire a small country of thugs to make sure you and your family never sleep again. Just try to get at least a few of these guys contacted by the end of the day, and give me a status report before you leave. Great. Awesome. [pat on the back]

    Which list will you end up "getting around to" before the clock strikes 5?
  • by nurb432 (527695) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @04:34PM (#32186992) Homepage Journal

    Only when there was reasonable expectation that the goods were stolen. If you acted in good faith you don't get prosecuted, you just lose your stuff.

  • by ZeBam.com (1790466) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @04:48PM (#32187086) Homepage
    Go after the little guy to stop the big-time mobsters. Oh yeah, sure, that'll work. Why didn't we think of that before? Put all the small time drug dealers in jail and it will put the big guys out of business. Put all the small-time incompetent terrorists who light their shoes or underwear on fire and put the big guys out of business. Put all the Abu Ghraib prison guards in jail and stop Pentagon Brass and civilian military leadership from being war criminals. Put Fabulous Fabrice on trial and stop finance industry mobsters from raping the planet.

    Yeah. What a good idea. Get some good headlines at least.
  • Re:What? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by clang_jangle (975789) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @04:52PM (#32187122) Journal
    I swear, we really need a -1 Retarded mod for comments like the parent.
  • by Shimbo (100005) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @04:53PM (#32187144)

    If you acted in good faith you don't get prosecuted, you just lose your stuff.

    As the original article says, the majority of mules know they are doing something slightly shady. They just don't know exactly what. I think it's reasonable to prosecute and let the court decide the degree of culpability.

  • Yup, and many magicians will tell you that the more intelligent people are easier to fool.

  • by maillemaker (924053) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @05:26PM (#32187418)

    >They are going after dumb people who set up a bank account to launder a couple thousand dollars?

    >But they're not going after institutional traders who now offer co-location services with
    >enhanced market data feeds, fueling high frequency trading? They are not going after the
    >banking cartels who manipulate the whole economy? They are not going after Paypal for
    >among numerous things) blatantly lying about international exchange rates? or on and on and
    >on from examples of large, institutionalized financial fraud?

    Well of course! The dumb people don't have money for attorneys and politicians. So the FBI will go after the dumb people and then claim they did something about the problem.

  • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @05:42PM (#32187528)

    So you mean that it's equally easy (in average) to con somebody with IQ 90 and somebody with IQ 140? Sure, somebody with IQ 140 or higher can be conned and I'm sure there's anecdotally evidence for that, but that doesn't mean it's equally easy to con smart(er) people.

    Probably easier to con a smart person than a dumb one. Just convince the smart guy that he's conning you, and he's ripe for plucking....

  • by phantomfive (622387) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @05:52PM (#32187614) Journal
    This should be obvious, but since you may not realize it, high frequency trading is not illegal. Money laundering is. It is the job of the FBI to go after people for doing illegal things. There is nothing wrong going on here.

    If you don't like it, complain to your congressperson to make a new law. Then high frequency trading will be illegal. And the FBI will prosecute it. And you can be happy.
  • by roc97007 (608802) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @06:17PM (#32187814) Journal

    I'm ambivalent about this. Clearly a crime is being committed, and that needs to be pursued, but the mule is often unaware that they are committing one. This is especially bad in a down economy, when desperate people are more likely to sign up.

    A good friend of mine was so proud that she had finally found a job, and one she could do at home (bonus) and wouldn't be kicked out of her apartment after all. It was difficult to tell her that she was being hired to be a money mule and was almost certainly laundering money from illegal enterprises.

    Often, these people aren't being dishonest or lazy, they're honestly trying to make rent. (Cross-reference to stories about low income jobs being hit hardest in this economy.) None of us here would fall for it, but they're not trying to hire IT professionals; they're trying to hire out-of-work nonprofessionals who don't have the education or life experience to know better.

    Nailing a few mules won't really affect anything except arrest records (for those keeping score). There will always be more naive people to be suckered in, and the real criminals continue their operations. It seems like a better strategy would be for law enforcement to take the mule into their confidence and use them to trap the real criminals in return for amnesty. But that would be too much like real work, wouldn't it?

  • by ErikZ (55491) * on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @06:27PM (#32187882)

    Correct.

    It's the same reason why the police like to bust pot smokers. It's easy and not dangerous.

  • by billstewart (78916) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @06:46PM (#32188002) Journal

    There are different business models out there. Sure, if Nigeria's on either end of the deal, the check's bogus, and it's a one-shot scam (unless they can sell your name to somebody who's going to tell you they're the Nigerian National Bank's Fraud Inspection Division, trying to catch that Evil Miscreant who ripped you off, because you're now a known sucker.)

    But sometimes, the deal comes from a legitimate criminal enterprise who actually do want to launder and move money, whether they're drug dealers or extortionists or whatever, and they'd prefer to find mules they can use multiple times and it's cheaper than other ways to move the money.

    And then again, they could be longer-con scammers who are willing to pay you a few bucks on the first few checks so that you'll trust them, and then they'll send you a bigger check that really is bogus.

  • by John Hasler (414242) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @07:02PM (#32188090) Homepage

    > When pressed as to why they did this, if they're honest most will say they
    > weren't sure about the whole arrangement and wanted to protect their
    > investments just in case their employers turned out to be less-than-honest.

    That doesn't mean that they thought the money was stolen: just that they thought their "employers" might be intending to try to swindle them by cleaning out their accounts. They may have suspected that the money was hot but you can't conclude that just because they took precautions.

  • by John Hasler (414242) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @07:20PM (#32188246) Homepage

    > As the original article says, the majority of mules know they are doing
    > something slightly shady.

    Perhaps, but the stated "evidence" merely indicates that they know they are doing something slightly risky, as in "Maybe this is legit, or maybe these guys have some scheme to rip me off. I'll open a separate account just to be safe."

    It is not a crime to be prudent.

  • by ZeBam.com (1790466) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @07:23PM (#32188266) Homepage
    You're kidding right? When has that ever worked? While the hydra has a dozen heads, it has hundreds of millions of legs. Taking out the little guys is little more than Roman Circus for law-and-order politicians to prolong their dubious careers.
  • Re:What? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by daem0n1x (748565) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @07:59PM (#32188472)

    planning a law enforcement sweep against so-called "money mules," individuals willingly or unwittingly roped into helping organized computer crooks launder money stolen through online banking fraud

    So, what are they going to do? Arrest all the Wall Street executives? Invade the Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Luxemburg, Switzerland, etc. etc. etc.

  • by baileydau (1037622) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @12:13AM (#32189710)

    I believe this is largely a "marketing" exercise. One of their main aims would be to reduce the number of people willing to be mules. This means that the "real bad guys" have to work harder to get their money clean.

    They want to let those in "the latter group" know that this is definitely illegal, instead of having the thin veil of thinking it *may* be slightly dodgy in some way, but not necessarily illegal, or even if it is, no one has ever got in trouble for it.

    If they get a few convictions, or even get some cases to court, the media will do the rest for them. Job done.

    That will work a LOT better than any traditional advertising / press release etc.

  • by Aceticon (140883) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @04:29AM (#32190638)

    Intelligence is different from (street) Smarts.

    If you ever worked with highly intelligent people, you surelly have noticed that some of them are hardly as successful as one would expect from their IQ - even if you have not noticed that about yourself.

    Intelligent people are in fact easier to con because:
    - They are so (over)confident in their own mental abilities and believe so much that they are thus un-connable that they won't even see the emotional/social manipulation of the conman (in a sense, they have a huge blind spot).
    - Their confort zone is often logic, not influencing people, so they cannot even recognize some of the "moves" for what they are.

  • Intelligence is different from (street) Smarts.

    There are multiple facets to intelligence, not all of which are measured through IQ. Moreover, most people actually reason in a Bayesian fashion, deciding how much to believe what someone's saying by evaluating the perceived trustworthiness of the speaker. If the scammer manages to get into a position where he can say things that are believed without actually being reasoned about (or say things that will be categorically not believed, allowing converse statements to be made and so belief to be established in what the scammer wants) then the core of scam is done; all that's really left is moving it into the cash-out phase.

    An intelligent and suspicious mark will be very difficult to scam, especially if they are inclined to shut the scammer's statements out. Lots of people aren't good at suspicion it seems.

  • Re:What? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TheCarp (96830) <sjc@nospAm.carpanet.net> on Thursday May 13, 2010 @06:45AM (#32191358) Homepage

    My favorite was that Major League Baseball player a few years back. As I remember the case, he met a girl in a bar. She had used a fake ID to get into the bar, but was actually under age.

    He was convicted anyway. Even though she was in a 21+ place, with a fake ID, apparently its not unreasonable for the state to expect men in bars to check ID before they take girls home, and do a better job than the bar at catching fake IDs.

    -Steve

  • Re:What? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pnutjam (523990) <slashdot@ b o r o w i c z . o rg> on Thursday May 13, 2010 @08:13AM (#32192164) Homepage Journal

    What was he going to do, call the police?

    That would be the best possible outcome, if he were able to locate you.

What this country needs is a dime that will buy a good five-cent bagel.

Working...