Good afternoon, everyone. Before we turn to today’s event, let me address the recent events in Charlotte, North Carolina. The recent death of Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte is currently under local investigation. We are aware of the tragic events that resulted in his death, and the Department of Justice and FBI are currently monitoring the situation. For the second day in a row, protests in response to the death of Keith Lamont Scott took place in Charlotte last night. And for the second day in a row, the protests were marred by violence – this time leaving one person on life support and several injured – an awful reminder that violence only begets violence.
The details of what happened last night are still under review by local authorities. Today, the Department of Justice is sending four members of our Community Relations Service to Charlotte. Our Office of Community Oriented Policing Services has offered technical assistance and support for crowd mediation to local police. And the local FBI field office stands ready to assist local law enforcement as well.
To the people of the great state, the beautiful state, my home state of North Carolina: I know these are difficult times. I know that the events of recent days are painfully unclear and call out for answers. But I also know that the answer will not be found in the violence of recent days. Let us all seek a peaceful way forward. I know that most of the demonstrators gathered to exercise their constitutional right to peaceful protest in order to raise issues and create change. We need your voice. We need your passion. We need your commitment. But I urge those responsible for the violence to stop. You are drowning out the voices of commitment and change and ushering in more tragedy and grief in our communities.
The tragic incidents in Charlotte and in Tulsa, Oklahoma, earlier this week once again underscored the divisions that persist between law enforcement officers and communities of color. One of my top priorities as Attorney General has been to do everything in my power to help heal those divides, and the Department of Justice will continue working tirelessly to protect the rights of all Americans; to give law enforcement the resources they need to do their jobs safely and fairly; to open dialogue and promote reconciliation; and to reduce violence of all kind in this country.
But as we have seen in recent months, despite these efforts – and the efforts of many others across the country – we have come together with thoughts and prayers too many times for a victim of violence – civilians and law enforcement officers alike. And too many times we have been pulled down the easy path of blame and accusation, rather than the harder path of empathy and understanding. Let us choose that path. Let us work together to ensure that all Americans have both a voice and value in this great country of ours. I want to reaffirm my full commitment – and the full commitment of the Department of Justice – to advancing that effort. To those exercising that most fundamental of our freedoms, we hear your voices and feel your pain. To all of the law enforcement officers who continue to risk their lives day in and day out to keep us safe and protect those essential freedoms, I extend my deepest thanks.
And finally, I urge all Americans to ask themselves what they can do to contribute to the more peaceful, the more perfect and the more just union that is our shared heritage, our mutual responsibility and our common goal.
Now, for today’s announcement, I am joined by Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General [Ben] Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division; U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York [Robert] Capers; Acting Director of the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) John Smith; Chief Postal Inspector [Guy] Cottrell; and Lois Greisman, Associate Director of the Division of Marketing Practices at the Federal Trade Commission.
We are here today to announce a series of major law enforcement actions against companies and individuals involved in mass-mailing schemes that have defrauded millions of Americans. The actions taken by the department and our agency partners include bringing criminal charges, filing civil injunction complaints, imposing economic sanctions, seizing criminal proceeds and executing search warrants. These actions represent significant steps in the federal government’s ongoing efforts to protect the American people – especially the most vulnerable among us – from fraud and exploitation.
Each year, Americans receive tens of millions of fraudulent letters. Many of the letters, for example, falsely claim that the recipient has won cash or valuable prizes. In order to collect these benefits, the letters say, the recipient need only send in a small amount of money for a processing fee or taxes. The perpetrators of these mass-mailing schemes target elderly individuals and those in vulnerable financial situations and their activities have cheated Americans out of hundreds of millions of dollars. The fraud is massive in scale and global in scope, and it can be devastating on an individual level.
The schemes involve a complicated web of actors located across the world. For example, the actions announced today include criminal charges and a civil injunction action against a Turkish resident whose direct-mail schemes defrauded U.S. victims out of more than $29 million; a seizure warrant against the bank account of a Canadian payment processor that laundered money for more than 100 mass-mailing fraud campaigns and an order designating the payment processor as a significant Transnational Criminal Organization; and a consent decree that would impose a permanent injunction against two so-called “caging services” in the Netherlands, which received and processed victim payments, and also tracked victims’ personal information. The companies and individuals named in these actions operated different parts of mass-mailing fraud schemes in different parts of the world. But they all acted with the same malicious intent: to take advantage of elderly individuals and other vulnerable citizens.
The actions announced today are the result of the tireless efforts from the men and women of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch; the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York; the Treasury Department; the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; and the Federal Trade Commission. Together, we are deploying the full range of tools at our disposal – including administrative, civil and criminal actions – against those who commit fraud. And in the days ahead, we will continue working together to protect the American people from exploitation.
But we cannot succeed alone. We need the public’s help, too. Indeed, the best defense against these types of scams is public awareness. That is why the department is collaborating with seven federal agencies and numerous non-profit groups on a public education campaign to combat this fraud and protect our nation’s seniors from financial exploitation. Because our senior citizens should be enjoying their retirement, not financing fraudsters’ lifestyles. Working alongside our partners, we have developed materials to educate consumers and caregivers about how to identify mass-mailing scams. We need your help in looking out for friends, neighbors and family members who might be at risk. And if you do suspect a scam, we are counting on you to file complaints with law enforcement – which you can do at ftccomplaintassistant.gov. Together, we can stop mail fraud.
I would like to once again commend and thank all of our partners in this effort. And I would now like to turn things over to OFAC’s Acting Director, John Smith.