Three Plead Guilty to Bank Secrecy Act Violations in Connection with Check Cashing Scheme
Three men have pleaded guilty in Brooklyn, N.Y., for their roles in a check cashing scheme designed to evade anti-money laundering reporting requirements, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and United States Attorney Loretta E. Lynch of the Eastern District of New York.
Robert Petrosyants, 32, and his twin brother Zhan Petrosyants, 32, both of Fort Lee, N.J., pleaded guilty today before United States District Judge Frederic Block at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn to conspiring to violate the Bank Secrecy Act by causing the filing of false Currency Transaction Reports (CTRs) for cash transactions in excess of $10,000. On Feb. 21, 2014, Lasha Goletiani, 34, of Brooklyn, pleaded guilty to the same charge. They each face a maximum penalty of five years in prison at sentencing, which will be determined at a later date.
According to court filings and facts presented during the plea proceedings, the Petrosyants twins operated medical billing companies, including DJR Capital Inc., formerly located at 45 Main Street in the DUMBO section of Brooklyn. Those billing companies filed no-fault accident claims with insurance companies on behalf of medical clinics and equipment providers. Upon receipt of payment from the insurance companies in settlement of the claims, the conspirators drew checks payable to a complex web of shell companies. These shell companies appeared to be health care related but in fact did no legitimate business and were incorporated in the names of students who had received special short-term visas to study in the United States. The checks were then cashed by Goletiani and Zhan Petrosyants at Belair Payroll Services Inc., a Flushing-based check cashing business.
Belair and its owner, Craig Panzera, pleaded guilty in November 2013 to failing to maintain an effective anti-money laundering program and agreed to forfeit over $3.2 million.
According to court documents, Goletiani and Zhan Petrosyants provided false names to Belair when cashing checks and caused Belair to file CTRs stating that the shell companies or their nominee owners received the cash. Goletiani and Zhan Petrosyants received all of the cash from checks in the names of the shell companies. At the time that many of these transactions occurred, the nominee shell company owners were not even in the country when Goletiani and Zhan Petrosyants were cashing checks in their names.
Under the Bank Secrecy Act, financial institutions, including check cashers, are required to file a CTR with the Department of the Treasury for any transaction involving more than $10,000 in currency on a single day. As part of the CTR, the check casher is required to verify and accurately record the name and address of the individual who conducted the currency transaction and the individual on whose behalf the transaction was conducted, as well as the amount and date of the transaction.
Goletiani and Zhan Petrosyants pleaded guilty to a second superseding indictment filed on Nov. 6, 2013, charging them with conspiring to cause Belair to file false CTRs. Robert Petrosyants pleaded guilty to a separate information charging the same conspiracy.
The investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Kevin G. Mosley, J. Randall Warden and Claiborne Porter of the Money Laundering and Bank Integrity Unit of the Criminal Division’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section, Trial Attorney Darrin McCullough of AFMLS’s Forfeiture Unit and Assistant U.S. Attorney Patricia Notopoulos of the Eastern District of New York.
The Money Laundering and Bank Integrity Unit investigates and prosecutes complex, multi-district and international criminal cases involving financial institutions and individuals who violate the money laundering statutes, the Bank Secrecy Act and other related statutes. The unit’s prosecutions generally focus on three types of violators: financial institutions, including their officers, managers and employees, whose actions threaten the integrity of the individual institution or the wider financial system; professional money launderers and gatekeepers who provide their services to serious criminal organizations; and individuals and entities engaged in using the latest and most sophisticated money laundering techniques and tools.