Even Elliot Spitzer’s No Match for the “Bank Secrecy Act”
Talk about comeuppance. New York governor Elliot Spitzer, the poster boy for ethics on Wall Street and elsewhere in the financial markets now finds his political career in ruins. And it's all because of an almost-unknown law: the Bank Secrecy Act.
The so-called "Sheriff of Wall Street" made the mistake of withdrawing large amounts of cash from his bank account and trying to prevent the bank from reporting the withdrawal to the U.S. Treasury. That apparently set alarm bells off in the bank's software used to identify "suspicious transactions" in customer accounts.
The bank turned the information over to the IRS. An investigation began, which included wiretaps of Elliot's phone calls, including a series of conversations setting up liaisons with high-priced call girls.
And a few weeks later, The New York Times revealed that Spitzer had paid a prostitute US$4,300 in cash for her services. Apparently, Spitzer had at least seven liaisons with women from the agency over six months, and paid more than $15,000.
In cash. And that's what led to the problem. The Bank Secrecy Act requires that banks report the withdrawal of more than $10,000 to the U.S. Treasury. The form used is called a "Currency Transaction Report" or CTR.
Elliot apparently realized that any cash withdrawal over $10,000 led to a CTR filing requirements. But, he may not have realized is that any effort to avoid this filing requirement by breaking up a series of related cash transactions into smaller amounts is a federal crime called "structuring."
If Elliot is prosecuted for structuring, he could face a five-year prison sentence and a $250,000 fine. He could also lose every dime in the account from which he structured the funds, under the law's severe civil forfeiture sanctions. But most likely, he'll receive a fine for the offense, but no prison time.
In most structuring investigations, the problem is knowing what transactions are "related." Are a series of 12 withdrawals of US$900 (which collectively exceed US$10,000) related? Bank Secrecy Act regulations don't ad¬dress this possibili¬ty, or any of an infinite number of other possibili¬ties. But in Elliot's case, it was clear that the withdrawals had a common purpose: to funnel money to a front company for the prostitution agency.
Elliot's sad story should be an object lesson. Laws that prohibit you from withdrawing your lawfully earned money in any way you please from your bank account without notifying the U.S. Treasury may be unfair. But, they are enforced, as Elliot learned to his dismay.
Copyright © 2008 by Mark Nestmann
Update: Spitzer was never prosecuted for structuring or any other form of money laundering.
(An earlier version of this post was published by The Sovereign Society.)
Protecting your assets (and yourself) against any threat - from the government, the IRS or a frivolous lawsuit - is something The Nestmann Group has helped more than 15,000 Americans do over the last 30 years.
Feel free to get in touch at email@example.com or call +1 (602) 688-7552 to learn how we can help you.
Want to learn more about us first?
Why not get instant access to my very popular e-course - Inside the World of Big Money Asset Protection. It tells the story of John and Kathy, two clients we helped from the heartland of America.
We subsidize copies of the course to new readers. In other words, it's yours free.
Many clients have used this program to really be clear about what they need to do - and how to get started. You likely will too.
To begin, we just need to know where to send it:
Share this article: