The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”) recently announced its assessment of a civil money penalty against a money transmitter based out of Westbrooke, Maine. Under the authority of the Bank Secrecy Act (“BSA”) and regulations issued pursuant to that Act, FinCEN determined that grounds exist to assess a civil money penalty against Sarith Meas (“Meas” or the “Money Transmitter”). In order to resolve the matter, Meas has entered into a “Consent to the Assessment of Civil Money Penalty” without admitting or denying the determinations by FinCEN.

A money transmitter is a type of “money services business” (“MSB”) and “financial institution,” under the BSA and regulations issued pursuant to that Act. The Internal Revenue Service, Small Business/Self-Employed Division, under delegated authority from FinCEN, examines MSBs for compliance with the BSA, and refers evidence of deficiencies to FinCEN for disposition. FinCEN’s enforcement authority empowers it to investigate and impose civil money penalties against MSBs for violations of the BSA and its implementing regulations.

From January 2006 through October 2010, Meas acted as an independent money transmitter, located in Westbrook, Maine. Meas executed funds transfers for customers and received financial compensation for those money transmission services. Meas engaged in the business of transmitting funds for persons located in the United States. At all relevant times, Meas was a “money transmitter,” within the meaning of the BSA and its implementing regulations.

As administrator of the BSA, FinCEN may impose civil money penalties against a money transmitter, or any person who owns or controls a money transmitter, for violations of money services business registration requirements, and may assess civil money penalties against a money transmitter, or any partner, director, officer, or employee thereof, for each willful violation of recordkeeping, reporting and/or anti-money laundering program requirements.

FinCEN has determined that Meas violated the registration and anti-money laundering program requirements of the BSA. From January 2006 through October 2010, Meas conducted business as an independent money transmitter out of her residence in Westbrook, Maine. In a typical transaction, a customer provided Meas with cash, checks, or money orders, along with instructions to transmit funds to a specified beneficiary, and Meas deposited those funds into her U.S. deposit accounts. Once the funds cleared, Meas instructed U.S. financial institutions to wire transfer funds to designated financial institution(s) in Cambodia — a jurisdiction classified by the United States Department of State as suffering from money laundering deficiencies6— where the funds were retrieved by Meas’ affiliate(s) and made physically available to beneficiaries in the designated currency.

For an extended period of time, Meas operated as an independent money transmitter by engaging as a business in the transfer of funds. She was required under the BSA to register as an MSB with FinCEN and implement a written anti-money laundering program. Meas failed to both register as an MSB and implement a written anti-money laundering program. For these violations, Meas has consented to the assessment of a $12,500 civil penalty against her.

The author of this blog is Erich Ferrari, an attorney specializing in Federal Criminal Defense matters. If you have any questions please contact him at 202-280-6370 or ferrari@ferrari-legal.com.

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