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Arizona Financial Crimes Task Force Receiving National Award

(Phoenix, Ariz. – April 8, 2010) Attorney General Terry Goddard announced that the Arizona Financial Crimes Task Force is receiving a national award today from President Obama’s Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program (HIDTA) for reaching a $94 million settlement with Western Union earlier this year.  

The prestigious “Outstanding Financial Investigative Effort Award” honors the collaboration of law enforcement agencies that work to combat criminal organizations, both nationally and internationally.  The Financial Crimes Task Force is a cooperative organization made up of the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, Phoenix Police Department, Arizona Department of Public Safety and U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“Our Office and our law enforcement partners worked tirelessly on the Western Union case for years,” Goddard said.  “This type of dedication and commitment has allowed us to disrupt the transfer of millions of dollars that would have otherwise flowed into the pockets of the criminal cartels.  Those cartels continue to pose a huge threat to the safety and security along the border.”

From 2003 to 2009, task force members determined that drug and human smugglers were using specific money transfer agents, predominantly Western Union, to move their money across the border.  The task force was able to target the illegal money transfers, obtain seizure warrants and seize more than $12 million over a two-year period, which was directly tied to drug or human smuggling organizations.  

Two months ago, the Attorney General’s Office announced the groundbreaking, $94 million settlement, which will provide substantial new resources for law enforcement authorities in the four Southwest border states to combat illegal activity along the entire U.S.-Mexico border.  

Under the agreement, Western Union has begun paying $21 million to the State of Arizona and $50 million to a non-profit organization that will fund law enforcement agencies in the four Southwest border states to enhance anti-money laundering efforts. 

The company also committed $19 million over the next several years to strengthen its own anti-money laundering efforts.  The settlement will provide $4 million to $6 million to support a court -appointed monitor who will ensure that Western Union complies with its internal anti-money laundering obligations.  Additionally, as part of the settlement agreement, the Arizona Attorney General’s Office is in the process of creating the first-ever Border Enforcement Section to strengthen the efforts of the agency to combat criminal activity along the Mexican border.

This award is the second high-profile honor the Financial Crimes Task Force has won in the past two years. In 2008, it received one of the top accolades in law enforcement, the International Association of Chiefs of Police Choice Point Award for Excellence in Criminal Investigations. The award was given to honor a year-long investigation called “Operation Fly-by-Night” that led to the indictment of 16 people and the breakup of a large human smuggling operation in Arizona. 

For more information, contact Molly Edwards at 602-542-8019.