The U.S. Justice Department announced a worldwide effort to halt “money mule” activity. Money mules help fraud schemes by receiving money from victims, many of them elderly, and forwarding proceeds to foreign-based perpetrators. During a two-month initiative, U.S. law enforcement said it disrupted mule networks that spanned from Hawaii to Florida and from Alaska to Maine. Authorities halted more than 600 domestic money mules, after a similar effort against 400 mules last year. DOJ tripled the number of criminal prosecutions against money mules compared with last year.
Attorney General William Barr said the FBI, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch coordinated the effort. It coincided with the European Money Mule Action (EMMA), a simultaneous global effort announced by Europol. The enforcement activity addressed a variety of elder fraud scheme types, including what DOJ called “grandparent scams, romance scams, lottery and sweepstakes scams, IRS and Social Security Administration imposter scams, veteran and social security benefit redirection scams, and technical-support scams.” More than 30 people were criminally charged for their roles in receiving victim payments and providing the fraud proceeds to accomplices.