A fraud investigator helped expose the shocking world of multi-billion dollar drug laundering by American banks and the surprising lack of oversight by the Feds.
June 10, 2011 - Martin Woods, an Englishman in his mid-40s, is blessed with a Sherlock Holmes instinct and demeanor. Woods is an expert at sniffing out "dirty" money passing through International Banking Systems.
A police officer for 18 years and later a detective with London Metro Police Agency, Woods capitalized on his unique expertise as a fraud expert by joining Wachovia's London-based Bank in March 2005 as an anti-money laundering officer.
It wasn't long after taking the job that he discovered that his own employer, one of America's leading banks, was a major player in aiding the "bloodthirsty" Mexico drug cartels to launder billions of dollars in drug money through Wachovia banks. Woods traced and identified a "number of suspicious transactions" related to Mexico-based Casa de Cambios (CDC).
Casa de Cambios are currency-exchange operations set up along the U.S. Mexico-border to assist cross border transfers of money to remit labor paychecks. And on the illegal side the Casa de Cambios are also known as the superhighway for narcotic proceeds into the U.S. and overseas financial markets.
When Woods zeroed in on deposited traveler's checks with sequential numbers sent by the CDC he discovered that large amounts of funds were exceedingly more than a typical person would need. The questionable CDC checks either lacked adequate identifying information or had none at all, including no legible signatures affixed on the funds.
Following this discovery investigator Woods issued a "suspicious activity report" (SAR) on a series of the CDCs' financial transfers and deposits. Then he requested the CDC checks to be temporarily blocked from transaction pending further investigation.
Not long after, an exchange of heated words occurred. A senior Miami-based manager called Woods' SAR reports "defensive and unwarranted."
Feeling jaded, Woods, as he recalls, "came under fire from the bank staff to change tactics and develop a better understanding of Mexico."
Wachovia officials ordered Woods to cease inquiries about Mexican CDCs and to also stop blocking other Eastern Europe and Moscow accounts. The British investigator, snapped, "I don't need to read up on Mexico. My interest are drug trafficking and money laundering."
His instincts proved correct.
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