Department of Justice Begins Third Distribution of Forfeited Funds to Compensate Victims of Fraud Scheme Facilitated by Western Union
Distribution of Funds Brings Compensation Total to More than $365 Million
They are re-opening their program to New Applicants this year!
The Department of Justice announced today that the Western Union Remission Fund began its third distribution of approximately $66 million in funds forfeited to the United States from the Western Union Company (Western Union) to approximately 6,000 victims located in the United States and abroad.
According to the DoJ: “These victims, many of whom were elderly victims of consumer fraud, will be recovering the full amount of their losses.”
- The Fund was open to anyone from any country that sent money to scammers prior to 2017 via Western Union
- The program closed in 2018, but the DoJ says they will accept NEW applications this year!
- Many victims have already received their refunds under the program
- Per what we have heard directly from victims, most victims received less than 5% of their losses, and many much smaller – but something is better than nothing
According to SCARS’ Director Debby Montgomery Johnson:
“it is vitally important to make sure that you complete the application process carefully since it can impact the amount of money you receive. However, to be able to receive even some of your money is a great victory for scam victims! We are grateful to the women and men of the U.S. Government for taking on this giant task and seeing it through to fulfillment!
This Is The Third In A Series Of Distributions.
The Department of Justice claims that the first two distributions paid more than $300 million to over 142,000 victims, all of whom received full compensation for their losses.
The Department of Justice anticipates authorizing compensation for more victims in the coming months. Petitions are accepted on an ongoing basis and potential victims who have not applied for compensation will be provided the opportunity to apply this year.
“This third distribution of funds from the Western Union forfeiture demonstrates the Department of Justice’s continued commitment to compensate and serve justice to victims, many of whom suffered immense losses from this fraud scheme,” said Deputy Assistant Attorney General Kevin O. Driscoll of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “Divesting criminals of ill-gotten gains and returning those funds to victims are the primary goals of the Asset Forfeiture Program, which has provided over $10 billion in forfeited funds to victims over the last two decades.”
“Since 2001, our office, in conjunction with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, has been at the forefront of investigating and prosecuting cross-border frauds where global money services companies such as Western Union facilitate fraud by transferring millions of dollars overseas into the pockets of international fraudsters,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Bruce D. Brandler for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. “The historic 2017 deferred prosecution agreement with Western Union, and the payments to thousands of victims to compensate them for their losses, demonstrates our commitment to hold all responsible parties accountable and to make all victims whole. I want to thank all the prosecutors and agents who continue to work tirelessly on behalf of the victims.”
“Today’s $66 million distribution continues our commitment to ensuring justice for the thousands of victims who were financially harmed by multiple fraud schemes in this investigation,” said Postal Inspector in Charge Damon Wood of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s Philadelphia Division. “We are pleased that thus far over $350 million has been returned to approximately 150,000 victims, many who are among the most vulnerable: the elderly. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is dedicated to protect Americans and to ensure that all remedies are explored in delivering justice.”
Western Union Action
In 2017, Western Union entered into a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) with the United States.
Pursuant to the DPA, Western Union had criminal information filed against it where it acknowledged responsibility for its criminal conduct, which included violations of the Bank Secrecy Act and aiding and abetting wire fraud, and agreed to forfeit $586 million, which has been made available to compensate victims of an international consumer fraud scheme. Western Union simultaneously resolved a parallel civil investigation with the Federal Trade Commission.
According to court documents, in the scheme, fraudsters targeted consumers, including seniors, through multiple scams.
Three specific scams directed towards seniors included the so-called grandparent scam, where the fraudster would pose as the victim’s relative in purported need of immediate money to avoid personal harm; lottery or sweepstakes scams, where the fraudster would tell the victim that he or she had won a large cash prize but had to pay fees, such as taxes, to claim the prize; and romance scams, where the fraudster would pose as an online love interest and request funds for a visit or for another purpose. In each of these scams, the fraudsters convinced their victims to send money through Western Union.
Certain owners, operators or employees of Western Union locations were complicit in the scheme.
Western Union aided and abetted the scheme by failing to suspend or terminate complicit agents and by allowing them to continue to process fraud-induced monetary transactions. Western Union fulfilled its obligations under the DPA, and the court granted the motion to dismiss the criminal information against Western Union last year.
NOTE: As early as 2012, the predecessor to SCARS had identified the fact that scammers had taken over Western Union agencies in Africa, that allowed them to receive money without it even being received by real people!
The Department of Justice, through the Asset Forfeiture Program, works diligently to restore lost funds to victims of crime and acknowledges the significant assistance of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service Philadelphia Division’s Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Office. The victim compensation payments, in this case, would not have been possible without the extraordinary efforts of the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section, and the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, the Central District of California, the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and the Southern District of Florida (where SCARS is located.) The FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, IRS-Criminal Investigation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, the Federal Reserve Board, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Office of Inspector General, and the Department of the Treasury Office of Inspector General provided valuable assistance.
More information about the Western Union compensation process is available on the Western Union remission website at www.westernunionremission.com. Further questions may be directed to the Western Union Remission Administrator by phone at 844-319-2124 or by email at info@WesternUnionRemission.com.
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