District Attorney Vance Announces Formation of the Financial Intelligence Unit

May 28, 2013

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., announced the formation of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) within the District Attorney’s Office’s Major Economic Crimes Bureau. The primary function of the FIU is to conduct proactive investigations into illicit financial activities and support ongoing prosecutions across all areas of the Office. By collecting and reviewing banking, regulatory, law enforcement, and open-source data, specially trained FIU analysts will use financial intelligence to combat and solve crime, with assistance from the United States Secret Service (USSS), the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“Keeping our Office and its investigations firmly rooted in the 21st Century means mining unique troves of data previously unavailable to prosecutors and investigators to uncover wrongdoing,” said District Attorney Vance. “As financial information has made the leap from ledger books to online sources, this new Unit will be tasked with making sure these sets of data are analyzed, which will enhance our prosecutions of everything from classic white-collar crimes to street crimes to cybercrime. We are proud to work with both local and federal agencies on this effort.”

USSS Special-Agent-in-Charge Steven G. Hughes said: “The Secret Service is looking forward to supporting the initiative of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office in establishing the Financial Intelligence Unit.  The formation of this unit will allow law enforcement agencies to work in a collaborative setting to develop, investigate and prosecute serious crimes that affect all law abiding citizens.  We have worked alongside the fine men and women of the District Attorney’s Office for many years and see the formation of this new unit as a way to strengthen our partnership.”

IRS-CI Chief Richard Weber said: “We are pleased to continue our efforts to work collaboratively with the New York County District Attorney’s Office, including the Financial Intelligence Unit. Through the analysis of Bank Secrecy Act data, including Suspicious Activity Reports, CI has experienced great success in identifying significant and complex money laundering schemes and other financial crimes.  Working with the FIU provides additional opportunities for local, state and federal agencies to join forces and combat financial crime.”

FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge George Venizelos said: “The FBI is as determined as ever to rein in financial crimes that victimize the public and undermine the economy. To that end, we are committed to sharing information and pooling resources. Participation in the Financial Intelligence Unit is in keeping with that commitment.”

Located within the Major Economic Crimes Bureau, the FIU serves as a collaborative workspace for analysts, prosecutors, and investigators and will expand upon the success of the Major Economic Crime Bureau’s Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) Review Team, which began operating in November 2010.  Since then, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has reviewed thousands of FinCen filings, which help to trace the origin of suspicious funds, identify criminal patterns, and develop new investigative leads. While the federal Bank Secrecy Act prevents the Office from pinpointing specific cases that were initiated by or received assistance from these leads, the Unit has helped develop not just financial fraud investigations, but also cases involving art theft, cyber fraud, sex trafficking, immigration fraud, and homicides.  Many of these investigations have crossed state and national borders. Twenty analysts assigned to FIU are trained in the detection of conventional financial crimes, as well as specialized areas like cybercrime, human trafficking, violent criminal enterprises, and exploitation of immigrant communities.

Analysts assigned to the FIU will be responsible for referring activity of potential significance to senior attorneys within the Major Economic Crimes Bureau. In-house investigators, along with USSS and IRS-CI agents assigned to work with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, will assist in follow-up investigations as necessary. In instances where analysts detect potential criminal wrongdoing but, for jurisdictional reasons, are unable to bring a case, the information will be referred to other law enforcement partners, including, for example, other District Attorney’s Offices or federal authorities.

Members of the Financial Intelligence Unit took part in two recent financial crimes forums co-hosted by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. Last month, the District Attorney’s Office and the Thomson Reuters Foundation hosted a Human Trafficking Roundtable to discuss ways to collaborate in the fight against global human trafficking. Representatives from some of the world’s leading financial institutions, as well as law enforcement agencies, and corporations, were in attendance. Last November, the District Attorney’s Office sponsored its third annual Financial Crimes and Cyber Security Symposium at the New York Federal Reserve Bank. Nearly 400 people were in attendance, including bankers, regulators, cyber experts, and members of state and federal law enforcement.