HSI Bulk Cash Smuggling Task Force in Ohio Targets Criminals' Proceeds

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U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Columbus Bulk Cash Smuggling Task Force (BCSTF) has seized massive amounts of criminal assets since it was first established in Feb. 2012.

In its first two years of operation, HSI Columbus BCSTF members seized more than $4.6 million in illicit proceeds from criminal organizations. So far in 2014, they've seized more than $1.5 million. This year alone, they've made 69 arrests and seized illegal drugs, including more than 6,500 grams of heroin and close to 5,000 grams of cocaine, as well as 461 unit doses of prescription pills and 37 firearms.

Ohio ranks fourth in the nation in law enforcement interception of illicit proceeds of crime. Perhaps the state's demographics help explain the reason for this. Ohio is the state that links the Northeast to the Midwest and has the largest and most well-developed highway network, where cargo and business traffic flow freely.

This same corridor is also used by transnational criminals who use a network of sophisticated smuggling operations and tactics to move illicit proceeds in, around and out of the United States. The 500-mile radius of Columbus, where 50 percent of the United States population resides, is a hub for illegal activity, with trafficking in illegal narcotics, weapons and women and children as sex slaves.

"Greed is a prime motivator that drives transnational crimes," said Nathan Emery, HSI resident agent in charge who administrates the HSI Columbus BCSTF. "Our task force is working every day to dry up the criminals' cash supply and cut off pipelines that support criminal activity."

One example that illustrates how the HSI Columbus BCSTF is halting criminal activity occurred in a Nov. 2013 investigation. The Columbus BCSTF encountered two subjects in Columbus during a traffic stop. After receiving consent to search an apartment in Columbus, investigators seized approximately 33 kilograms of cocaine, close to $210,000 in U.S. currency and made four federal arrests. Further investigation identified a safe deposit box containing an additional $40,000 in U.S. currency.

The task force is staffed by HSI, ICE's Enforcement and Removal Operations, the Columbus Police Department, the Franklin County Sheriff's Department and the Hilliard Police Department.

The Columbus BCSTF operates as part of the ICE HSI National Bulk Cash Smuggling Center, which is located at the ICE Law Enforcement Support Center in Williston, Vt., and is operational 24 hours a day to identify, investigate and disrupt bulk cash smuggling activities around the world.

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