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Office of Public Affairs | Sweepstakes Operators Plead Guilty to Bank Secrecy Act Violations

Money LaunderingOffice of Public Affairs | Sweepstakes Operators Plead Guilty to Bank Secrecy Act Violations

Two Missouri men pleaded guilty yesterday to conspiring with bankers to willfully fail to implement appropriate anti-money laundering (AML) controls at a Missouri bank, as required by the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA).

Kevin Brandes, 60, and William Graham, 56, both residents of Kansas City, Missouri, owned and operated multiple sweepstakes businesses and held accounts for those businesses at the Missouri bank. According to court documents, from 2013 to 2019, Brandes and Graham abetted bank officials in failing to implement key components of the bank’s AML program.

Under the BSA and its implementing regulations, the bank was required to file currency transaction reports (CTR) with the Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) for any transaction in currency of more than $10,000. In 2017, at the request of bank officials, Brandes and Graham signed FinCEN CTR Exemption Review Forms that classified their companies as “direct mail advertising” businesses. After receiving the signed exemption forms, the bank failed to file CTRs with FinCEN on transactions involving Brandes’ and Graham’s businesses. Additionally, Brandes’ and Graham’s companies were deemed “high risk” and subject to heightened monitoring under the bank’s policies and procedures. Brandes and Graham understood that by signing the CTR exemption forms the bank would apply less scrutiny to their companies’ transactions.

Additionally, on or about Oct. 11, 2016, at the direction of two bank officials, Brandes and Graham had an outside attorney sign a legal opinion letter, then sent it to the bank, knowing that it contained false information. Specifically, the letter indicated that one of Brandes’ companies “in over 3 years has not received negative or unwanted legal action by way of regulatory bodies or private suits.” Brandes and Graham knew at the time, however, that this information was false because a state regulatory agency had filed a legal action against the company in question. Brandes and Graham both believed this letter would help the bank circumvent its requirements under the BSA.

Brandes and Graham each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to cause the willful failure to implement and maintain an appropriate anti-money laundering program. Brandes and Graham will be sentenced at a later date and face maximum penalties of five years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri, head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Teresa A. Moore for the Western District of Missouri, Special Agent in Charge Justin R. Bundy of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Office of Inspector General (FDIC-OIG) Kansas City Region, Special Agent in Charge Thomas F. Murdock of the IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) St. Louis Field Office, and Assistant Director Michael Nordwall of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division made the announcement.

FDIC-OIG, IRS-CI, and the FBI are investigating the case.

Trial Attorneys Chad M. Davis and Christopher Ting of the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section (MLARS) and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Patrick D. Daly and Matthew N. Sparks for the Western District of Missouri are prosecuting the case.

MLARS’ Bank Integrity Unit investigates and prosecutes banks and other financial institutions, including their officers, managers, and employees, whose actions threaten the integrity of the individual institution or the wider financial system.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity.

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