Yesterday, the Federal Trade Commission announced the launch of a claims website stemming from its January settlement with Western Union in the amount of $586,000,000.00. The settlement involved allegations of anti-money laundering and consumer fraud violations by Western Union. These charges relate to accusations that Western Union turned a blind eye to and facilitated large scale wire fraud and money laundering activities through its service since 2001.
In the FTC's January 19, 2017 press release, U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker spoke of the FTC's investigation:
"Our investigation uncovered hundreds of millions of dollars being sent to China in structured transactions designed to avoid the reporting requirements of the Bank Secrecy Act, and much of the money was sent to China by illegal immigrants to pay their human smugglers. . . In a case being prosecuted by my office, a Western Union agent has pleaded guilty to federal charges of structuring transactions – illegal conduct the company knew about for at least five years. Western Union documents indicate that its employees fought to keep this agent – as well as several other high-volume independent agents in New York City – working for Western Union because of the high volume of their activity. This action today will ensure that Western Union effectively controls its agents and prevents the use of its money transfer system for illegal purposes."
Acting U.S. Attorney Louis Lappen added:
"Western Union’s failure to comply with anti-money laundering laws provided fraudsters and other criminals with a means to transfer criminal proceeds and victimize innocent people. Western Union has agreed to forfeit $586 million, the largest forfeiture ever imposed on a money services business, and has agreed to take specific steps to ensure that it complies with the law in the future. This office will continue to vigorously enforce the anti-money laundering laws and regulations, which are necessary to prevent those engaged in fraud, terrorism, human trafficking, drug dealing and other crimes from using companies like Western Union to further their illegal activity."
Affected consumers can file a claim (for free) with the FTC through the FTC’s claims portal at: https://www.ftc.gov/enforcement/cases-proceedings/refunds/western-union-settlement-faqs