Following the Money

 
 
By Larry Barrett  |  Posted 2004-04-04 Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


Following the Money

Casinos use software and surveillance techniques to identify unusual or illegal transactions. The aim: root out suspected money launderers or terrorists.

When Congress passed the USA Patriot Act in 2001, giving law enforcers greater access to medical, library, student and other records, casinos were among the first businesses affected.

The legislation charged the Financial Crime Enforcement Center (FinCEN), a 200-employee division of the Treasury Department, with collecting information from financial institutions and casinos that might lead to the uncovering of money-laundering operations.

Money launderers have long viewed Las Vegas casinos, which exchange chips for cash, as a handy place to "wash" drug money or other illicitly obtained funds. As a result, every cashier cage or gambling table with chips in play must have at least one camera dedicated to it. Most tables and every cashier cage actually have several cameras recording transactions, 24 hours a day.

Now, each establishment must file whats known as a Suspicious Activity Report by Casinos (SARC) to the Treasury Department every time a patron completes a cash transaction of more than $5,000. Moreover, casinos are obligated to fill out a SARC if a person makes multiple cash transactions that total $5,000 in any single day. Recording software provides details on transactions and bets.

The SARC reports are supposed to be kept secret—from the individual. That means the casino has the responsibility to find out as much information about the person conducting the transaction and share it with law-enforcement agencies, but do so without alerting the person in question.

Even if no law is broken, information collected by cashiers and recorded by surveillance cameras becomes part of a new file. Casino security chiefs submit a report to the Treasury Department detailing all activities they witnessed during the persons visit. They may also provide photographs of the person, information on how long that person stayed in the casino and even whether the person met or was accompanied by anyone else.

How This Applies to Domestic Security: Businesses that cash payroll checks, sell money orders and trade in cashiers checks could use the same camera and profiling techniques to comply with the Patriot Act. Domestic agents would be notified of individuals who traffic in money orders or payroll checks of substantial value over a certain period of time. Transaction details and images could serve as a starting point for more-detailed investigation by the FBI and DHS.

Next Page: Digital video.


 
 
 
 
Senior Writer
larry_barrett@ziffdavisenterprise.com
Larry, of San Carlos, Calif., was a senior writer and editor at CNet, writing analysis, breaking news and opinion stories. He was technology reporter at the San Jose Business Journal from 1996-1997. He graduated with a B.A. from San Jose State University where he was also executive editor of the daily student newspaper.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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