Everyone knows that it's hard to start your own business and make money as an entrepreneur early on in your career. So, you can understand how there may be some suspicions when one 21-year-old in South Florida had $1,651,699 in her bank account within one month of starting her business. Unfortunately, this new entrepreneur will likely have to look for a new job in prison.
Money Laundering Scam
Destiny Asjee Rowland started her business, Asjee Luxury, based out of Sunrise in July of 2017. She then opened a TD Bank account to deposit her earnings from her company. By August of that same year, she had over $1.6 million in her account, which is impressive for a new company with one employee that produces no goods or services.
It turns out, she was part of a $16 million international email scam victimizing businesses and convincing them to wire money into accounts like hers. The scam involved at least 23 people in South Florida, 42 in the U.S., and 74 around the world.
Authorities named their mission to capture the scammers, "Operation Wire Wire," which was a six-month collaboration of several agencies including the FBI, Department of Treasure, Secret Service, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Justice Department. As a result of the operation, 29 people in Nigeria, one in Canada, and one person in Mauritius were also arrested.
How did it work?
People like Rowland acted as "money mules" throughout the duration of the crime. These money mules would move money from U.S. bank accounts into accounts in China, Poland, and elsewhere likely without having to leave their couch. Once the money was wired into their local accounts by unsuspecting businesses, the "mules" would work to send it out. In her part of the scheme, Rowland agreed to have a portion of the fraudulently obtained money wired to her account in return for a portion of the proceeds.
The scam targeted businesses that did business together. For example, one business from Wisconsin and one from Illinois were used to conducting business with one another. One of the scammers would set up a fake email address that looked similar to one coming from the Illinois business to send emails to the Wisconsin business requesting payment. However, the fake Illinois business would provide an alternative bank account that payment needed to be transferred to due to a problem with their original account. The Wisconsin business would be fooled into thinking that the TD account owned by Rowland's business, "Asjee Luxury," was actually an account owned by the business in Illinois, and they would wire the money. In this case, it took several days for the Wisconsin company to discover that they had been fooled.
Luckily for them, most of the money was still sitting in the TD Bank account and could be recovered, although not all victims of wire fraud are as lucky.
What is money laundering and wire fraud?
Money laundering is a financial transaction that is used to conceal, disguise, hide, or process money and other proceeds generated through illegal activity. Wire fraud is the use of telecommunications or technology to commit financial fraud. Because wire fraud almost always crosses state lines, most of these types of cases are prosecuted under the federal jurisdiction.
Though most of the people involved in this case have pleaded guilty or have been found guilty, possible defenses to money laundering include a lack of knowledge regarding the source or intended purpose of the money, or entrapment by law enforcement.
If you are arrested and accused of a crime such as money laundering or wire fraud, you should immediately contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. Your attorney can help you navigate the justice system with regards to a defense in your case.
Neal, D. J. (n.d.). The 21-year-old's company had $1.6 million after 23 days. She'll be sentenced in July. Retrieved from https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/crime/article213018554.html