Arizona 2020 Money Mule Initiative
Federal, State, and Local Partners Join Forces to Serve More Than 70 Warnings
TUCSON, AZ—Increased “money mule” activity in Arizona is the focus of a two-month multi-agency initiative to identify, disrupt, investigate, and prosecute these financial fraud schemes.
A money mule is a person who transfers illegally acquired money on behalf of, or at the direction of, another person. Money mules often receive a commission for the service. Many provide assistance because they believe they are in a trusting or romantic relationship with the individual asking for help or are attempting to get their money back from a previous scheme in which they were victimized.
Much of the money moved through these third parties is stolen through Internet-enabled frauds, thefts, and scams. While some money mules may be genuinely unaware of their involvement in a criminal scheme, many fully understand they are moving money attained from unlawful activities. Those individuals who act as money mules with the knowledge that they are furthering a fraud scheme may be subject to criminal prosecution for committing a serious felony, such as money laundering.
From October 23 to November 18, law enforcement and prosecuting agencies, including the U.S. Attorney’s Office District of Arizona, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), with the assistance of 12 partner agencies, united to conduct more than 70 interviews with individuals whose financial transactions indicated they were acting as money mules.
During the initiative, agencies identified a variety of fraud schemes used to exploit these individuals, including computer technical support scams, romance scams, lottery scams, Internal Revenue Service imposter scams, and employment scams.
Over the span of two months, law enforcement took actions throughout Arizona to halt the conduct of money mules by serving more than 70 warning letters, which informed recipients that they could be prosecuted if they continued aiding and abetting these fraud schemes. The coordinated initiative focused on elder fraud cases where senior citizens served as money mules, including grandparent scams and romance scams.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Arizona, HSI, and FBI would like to thank the following agencies involved in this initiative for their unwavering commitment and outstanding work:
- Arizona Attorney General’s Office
- Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General
- Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation
- Marana Police Department
- Nogales Police Department
- Oro Valley Police Department
- Pima County Sheriff’s Department
- Sahuarita Police Department
- Tohono O’odham Police Department
- Tucson Police Department
- U.S. Postal Inspection Service
- U.S. Secret Service
For more information on money mules, including tips and what you can do if you think you are being targeted, please visit:
- Internet Crime Schemes: https://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/common-scams-and-crimes/money-mules
- FBI Money Mule Public Service Announcement: http://www.ic3.gov/media/2009/090203.aspx
- United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team: https://www.us-cert.gov/sites/default/files/publications/money_mules.pdf
- United States Treasury – A CTR Reference Guide https://www.fincen.gov/sites/default/files/shared/CTRPamphlet.pdf
- United States Postal Service Scam Victim Resources: https://www.uspis.gov/report/victim-help-resources/#/tips-prevention