On October 27, 2017, Paul Manafort and Richard Gates were indicted for various money laundering activities. This indictment gives insight into how sophisticated money laundering operations work. Investigators in these cases "follow the money" in an effort to dig up years of financial transactions to find illegal activity. Banking regulations carry reporting requirements such as Cash Transaction Reports ("CTRs") and Suspicious Activity Reports ("SARs") that make discovering money laundering activities easier. Indeed, when I prosecuted financial crimes we often worked with various law enforcement agencies who had access to these resources to help them track "dirty money."
What is also noteworthy from yesterday's headlines was the Papadopoulos plea. Investigators often focus on lower priority targets in an effort to pressure those people into providing useful information on higher priority targets. Investigators will offer leniency in exchange for cooperation in prosecuting others. This is "investigation 101" for prosecuting members of any organization, whether they are member of a street gang, traditional organized criminal groups, or groups of people committing money laundering activities. Sometimes the first person to talk gets the best deal. Other times this tactic backfires, because any person who testifies in exchange for a lenient sentence opens himself or herself up to blistering cross examination.