The increasingly costly and divisive border crisis is pushing federal investigators to crack down on money-laundering schemes they say are being used to smuggle thousands of Central American children into the U.S., reports the Los Angeles Times. Agents from the Department of Homeland Security and the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), are targeting suspicious patterns of deposits and withdrawals through “funnel accounts” held at U.S. banks.
Human-smuggling rings are using such bank transactions to fund their activities, officials said. In recent months, the arrests of several low-level money launderers, drivers, scouts and guides have bolstered and expanded the government’s ongoing effort. Nearly 57,000 unaccompanied children, mostly from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, have been apprehended crossing into the U.S. since Oct. 1, overwhelming Border Patrol stations and social services. As a result, federal anti-money-laundering agents who once focused on dismantling violent drug cartels are turning their investigative firepower to human-smuggling networks.