Feds extend footprint of shell game again

Standard

Will this obligation eventually extend to South Carolina?

shell game

Secretly purchasing expensive real estate continues to be a popular method for criminals to launder dirty money. Setting up shell entities allows these criminals to hide their identities. When the real estate is later sold, the money has been miraculously cleaned.

In early 2016, The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) of the United States Department of the Treasurer issued an order that required the four largest title insurance companies to identify the natural persons or “beneficial owners” behind the legal entities that purchase some expensive residential properties.

At that time, the reach of the project extended to the Borough of Manhattan in New York City, and Dade County, Florida, where Miami is located. In those two locations, the designated title insurance companies were required to disclose to the government the names of buyers who paid cash for properties over $1 million in Miami and over $3 million in Manhattan. The natural persons behind the legal entities had to be reported for any ownership of at least 25 percent in an affected property.

By order effective August 28, 2016, all title insurance underwriters, in addition to their affiliates and agents, were required to be involved in the reporting process, and the footprint of the project was extended.

The targeted areas and their price thresholds as of August 28, 2016 were:

  • Borough of Manhattan, New York; $3 million;
  • Boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens and Bronx, New York; $1.5 million;
  • Borough of Staten Island, New York; $1.5 million;
  • Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties, Florida; $1 million;
  • Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara and San Diego Counties, California; $2 million; and
  • Bexar County (San Antonio), Texas; $500,000.

By order effective September 22, 2017, wire transfers were included, and the footprint of the project will include transactions over $3 million in the city and county of Honolulu, Hawaii.

Although the initial project was termed temporary and exploratory, FinCEN has indicated that the project is helping law enforcement identify possible illicit activity and is also informing future regulatory approaches. The current order extends through March 20, 2018.

We have no way of knowing whether or when this program may be expanded to South Carolina, but it is entirely likely that expensive properties along our coast are being used in money laundering schemes. We will keep a close watch on this program for possible expansion

Advertisements

Feds Extend Footprint of Shell Game

Standard

Will this obligation eventually extend to South Carolina?

Secretly purchasing expensive real estate continues to be a popular method for criminals to launder dirty money. Setting up shell entities allows these criminals to hide their identities. When the real estate is later sold, the money has been miraculously cleaned.

Early this year, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) of the United States Department of the Treasurer issued an order that required the four largest title insurance companies to identify the natural persons or “beneficial owners” behind the legal entities that purchase some expensive residential properties.

shell game

At that time, the reach of the project extended to the Borough of Manhattan in New York City, and Dade County, Florida, where Miami is located. In those two locations, the designated title insurance companies were required to disclose to the government the names of buyers who paid cash for properties over $1 million in Miami and over $3 million in Manhattan. The natural persons behind the legal entities had to be reported for any ownership of at least 25 percent in an affected property.

Now, all title insurance underwriters, in addition to their affiliates and agents, will be involved, and the footprint of the project is being extended effective August 28.

The targeted areas and their price thresholds will be:

  • Borough of Manhattan, New York; $3 million;
  • Boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens and Bronx, New York; $1.5 million;
  • Borough of Staten Island, New York; $1.5 million;
  • Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties, Florida; $1 million;
  • Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara and San Diego Counties, California; $2 million; and
  • Bexar County (San Antonio), Texas; $500,000.

Although the initial project was termed temporary and exploratory, FinCEN has indicated that the project is helping law enforcement identify possible illicit activity and is also informing future regulatory approaches.

We have no way of knowing whether or when this program may be expanded to South Carolina, but it is entirely likely that expensive properties along our coast are being used in money laundering schemes. We will keep a close watch on this program for possible expansion!

Feds Play Shell Game in Manhattan And Miami

Standard

Title companies obligated to ID true owners behind shell entities.

Will this obligation migrate closer to home?

money launderingSecretly purchasing expensive residential real estate is evidently a popular way for criminals to launder dirty money. Setting up shell entities allows these criminals to hide their identities. When the real estate is later sold, the money has been miraculously cleaned.

The Federal government is seeking to stop this practice.

The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) of the United States Department of the Treasury issued orders on January 13 that will require the four largest title insurance companies to identify the natural persons or “beneficial owners” behind the legal entities that purchase some expensive residential properties.

This is a temporary measure (effective March 1 to August 27) and is limited to at this point to the Borough of Manhattan in New York City, and Dade County, Florida, where Miami is located. In those two locations, the designated title insurance companies must disclose to the government the names of buyers who pay cash for properties over $1 million in Miami and over $3 million in Manhattan. FinCEN will require that the natural persons behind legal entities be reported if their ownership in the property is at least 25 percent.

FinCEN’s official mission is to safeguard the financial system of the United States from illicit use, to combat money laundering, and to promote national security through the collection, analysis and dissemination of financial intelligence.

FinancialCrimesEnforcementNetwork-Seal.svgThese orders are a continuation of FinCEN’s focus on anti-money laundering protections for the real estate sector. Previously, the focus was only on transactions involving lending. The new orders expand that focus to include the complex gap of cash purchases.

FinCEN’s Director, Jennifer Shasky Calvery, was quoted in the agency’s press release: “We are seeking to understand the risk that corrupt foreign officials, or transnational criminals, may be using premium U.S. real estate to secretly invest millions in dirty money.”

American Land Title Association officials met with FinCEN to confirm the details of the orders. Michelle Korsmo, Executive Direction of ALTA, indicated that ALTA is supportive of the effort but is concerned that the program must be implemented in order to determine whether it will work. She said it will be difficult for a title insurance company to figure out a transaction involving a major drug kingpin who buys a mansion through a string of shell corporations all over the world.

This phase of the new program is being called temporary and exploratory, meaning that it may or may not work, and if it does work, it may or may not be expanded to other locations. (Query:  why won’t a money launderer who seeks to purchase residential real estate during the initial phase of this program, simply change locations to Chicago, Houston, San Francisco or Los Angeles?)

We have no way of knowing whether or when this program might be expanded to South Carolina, but it is entirely likely that expensive properties along our coast are being used in similar money laundering schemes. Will South Carolina closing attorneys enjoy ferreting out this sort of information for the Government? We will keep a close watch on what occurs in New York and Florida during the first 180 days of this program.