Check Cashers in Brooklyn, Philadelphia and Los Angeles Charged for Alleged Violations of Anti-Money Laundering Laws

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Seven individuals and four check cashing businesses were charged today in the Eastern District of New York and the Central District of California for their alleged roles in separate schemes to violate the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA).  The defendants allegedly failed to follow reporting and anti-money laundering requirements for transactions totaling more than $50 million….

Four indictments filed under seal on June 12, 2012, and unsealed today, charge the defendants with failure to file currency transaction reports (CTRs) or falsely filing CTRs, as well as failure to have an effective anti-money laundering program, all violations under the BSA.

Two of the indictments, charging three individuals and two check cashing businesses, were returned in Los Angeles and two indictments, charging four individuals and two check cashing businesses were returned in Brooklyn, N.Y.  All seven individual defendants were arrested or surrendered to authorities today….

As part of the scheme, which lasted from June 2009 through June 2011, Goletiani, 32, and Petrosyants, 30, presented to Belair’s manager and other employees, checks to be cashed at Belair.  The checks were written on accounts of shell corporations that appeared to be health care related, but in fact, the corporations did no legitimate business.  The shell corporations and their corresponding bank accounts on which the checks were written, were established in the names of foreign nationals, many of whom were no longer in the United States.

The indictment alleges that employees at Belair accepted these checks and provided cash in excess of $10,000 to Goletiani or Petrosyants.  Panzera, 46, and others at Belair never obtained any identification documents or information from Goletiani or Petrosyants.  Belair allegedly filed CTRs that falsely stated the checks were cashed by the foreign nationals who set up the shell corporations, and in certain CTRs, Belair allegedly failed to indicate the full amount of cash provided to Goletiani or Petrosyants.  Goletiani and Petrosyants cashed more than $19 million through Belair during the course of the scheme.  The indictment unsealed today supersedes an indictment returned against Goletiani in July 2011, for conspiring to cause Belair to file false CTRs.  Approximately $3.2 million has been seized from Belair’s bank accounts in connection with this conduct.

A second indictment filed in the Eastern District of New York charges Bargain Island, a check cashing business in Philadelphia, and its owner and operator, George Gonchar, 51, with failure to file CTRs and failure to have an effective AML program.  According to the indictment, from October 2009 through October 2010, individuals acting as check couriers brought multiple checks from Brooklyn made payable to various medical services companies, to Bargain Island and presented them to Gonchar for cashing.  On almost all occasions, the checks exceeded, in the aggregate, $10,000.  As alleged in the indictment, Gonchar knew that the check couriers presenting the checks to Bargain Island had no connection to the checks other than acting as couriers.  Despite this knowledge, Gonchar falsely indicated in CTR filings that the checks were cashed on behalf of the couriers themselves or for companies associated with the couriers.  Bargain Island cashed more than $5.8 million in checks from couriers in this manner.

A third indictment filed in the Central District of California charges G&A Check Cashing, a check cashing business in Los Angeles; its general manager, Karen Gasparian, 31; and an employee and designated compliance officer, Humberto Sanchez, 53, with BSA violations.  The indictment alleges that two separate cooperating witnesses presented bundles of checks totaling more than $10,000 to Gasparian and Sanchez at G&A.  The checks were written on accounts for businesses that purported to be health care businesses.  G&A deposited the checks into its operating accounts over a period of several days, and then provided cash, in excess of $10,000 to the cooperating witnesses.  Neither Gasparian nor Sanchez filed CTRs on these transactions even though they were well aware of the requirement to do so.  More than $100,000 in checks were cashed in this manner over the course of 10 transactions, yet no CTRs were ever filed.  This practice extended beyond the cooperating witnesses.  From 2006 through 2012, G&A conducted approximately 800 transactions that were each in excess of $10,000 and paid out more than $20 million in cash on those transactions without ever filing a CTR.

A fourth indictment filed in the Central District of California charges AAA Cash Advance, a check cashing business in Los Angeles, and its manager, Diana Brigitt, 35, with violations of the BSA.  From August 2010 through February 2012, Brigitt, on behalf of AAA, allegedly repeatedly cashed bundles of checks totaling more than $10,000 without filing any CTRs.  The checks were presented by a cooperating witness and were written on accounts that appeared to be for health care businesses.  More than $100,000 in checks were cashed in this manner over eight transactions, yet no CTRs were ever filed.  From January 2008 through February 2012, AAA’s banks reported that AAA had withdrawn approximately $5 million in cash, yet during this same time period, AAA filed only seven CTRs on transactions greater than $10,000.

Detailed Department of Justice press release link: click here