Man pleads guilty in $1 billion scheme to dodge money laundering rules in New York

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A man described as an “experienced anti-money laundering specialist” pleaded guilty on Wednesday to illegally funneling more than $1 billion in lucrative, high-risk transactions through small financial institutions, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

The massive transfer, which included hundreds of millions of dollars from foreign jurisdictions, occurred without proper oversight and without any Suspicious Activity Reports being filed, as the law requires, the DOJ said.

The man, 56-year-old Gyanendra Asre of Greenwich, Connecticut, pleaded guilty in Brooklyn federal court to one count of failing to maintain an anti-money laundering program in violation of the Bank Secrecy Act.

He faces up to 10 years in prison when he is sentenced May 3.

A lawyer for Asre did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, meanwhile, on Wednesday assessed a $100,000 civil penalty on Asre and banned him from participating in any financial institution’s affairs for five years.

“Asre was an experienced anti-money laundering specialist well-versed in the Bank Secrecy Act’s provisions and deliberately ignored these protections, exposing financial institutions to the risk of illicit criminal activity,” U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said in a press release.

The scheme occurred from 2014 to 2016, when Asre was a member of the supervisory board of the New York State Employees Federal Credit Union, which the DOJ called a “small, unsophisticated” financial institution.

He had previously been employed as a senior vice president at a domestic bank, and was “experienced in international banking and trained in anti-money laundering compliance and procedures,” the DOJ said.

Asre “represented to the NYSEFCU that he and his businesses would conduct appropriate anti-money laundering oversight as required by the Bank Secrecy Act,” according to the DOJ.

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Based on that, the NYSEFCU allowed Asre to conduct high-risk transactions, and he subsequently steered more than $1 billion through it and other entities.

Some of that money allegedly came from Mexican banks, which are not named in an indictment in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn.

But “contrary to his representations, Asre willfully failed to implement and maintain an anti-money laundering program at the NYSEFCU,” the DOJ said.

“This failure caused the NYSEFCU to process the high-risk transactions without appropriate oversight and without ever filing a single Suspicious Activity Report, as required by law,” according to the DOJ.

The National Credit Union Administration liquidated the NYSEFCU in October 2017 after finding “significant deficiencies” in the credit union’s regulatory compliance, according to FinCEN’s consent order with Asre.

Asre’s actions “were a major contributing factor to the dissolution” of the credit union, the consent order said.

Erin Keegan, the acting special agent-in-charge at the Department of Homeland Security’s investigative division in New York, said Asre was specifically trained in the right procedures and “took advantage of a small New York financial institution.”

“I commend HSI New York and our law enforcement partners for their dedication to ensuring vitally integral regulations — the foundation of our banking system — are upheld,” Keegan said.

CNBC’s Dan Mangan contributed to this report.

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