Posted on July 4, 2015
While reviewing the June 2015 edition of the ACFE Fraud Magazine I recognized the familiar face of Mr. Humberto Aguilar. I heard Mr. Aguilar present at the 9th Annual Anti-Money Laundering/Compliance and Financial Crime Conference in Grand Cayman Islands in October 2013. The conference is an annual event hosted by Karen O’Brien, founder and Managing Director of Global Compliance Solutions.
I remember Mr. Aguilar as a fascinating character. He graduated from law school in the late 1970’s and as a young criminal defence lawyer working in Miami soon found himself caught up orchestrating money laundering schemes for some of the biggest drug dealers of the time. In his presentation (and the ACFE video) he explained how he was drawn in by the excitement and huge commissions he earned laundering drug money. He used his privileged position as a ‘gatekeeper’ to set up offshore companies and worked with bankers to help convert and conceal proceeds of crime.
I recall him telling us that it was really not very hard for him to find cooperative bankers to facilitate his schemes. He explained some of his tactics to get the bankers on board. He said one of the most effective approaches was to wear his wealth and display it whenever he went to visit bankers. If they commented on his expensive watch (as he hoped they would) he would hand it over to the banker and tell him “Here it’s yours. I’ve got seven more like it at home”. Gifts of jewellery and perfume worked on the banker’s administrative staff just as effectively.
After several years of money laundering and millions in earnings the bottom fell out Mr. Aguilar. As I recall the story he showed up at home one day to find a couple of unwelcome assassins waiting for him. He survived; one of the assassins did not. This event resulted in a visit from U.S. federal agents. Mr. Aguilar was soon under indictment on money laundering related charges and in 1990 was charged, made bail, and fled the United States eventually landing in Europe. He had some very poignant stories about life on the run from the police and his old business partners and the effect this had on his family. A few years later he was arrested in Spain, extradited back to the U.S. and served seven years in federal penitentiary.
Mr. Aguilar is on the right side of the law now. He has lectured at several hundred conferences, has been an expert witness, and has shared his experiences with fraud and anti-money laundering investigators the world over. In the ACFE video he talks about his efforts trying to determine who is funding Hezbollah and how they are doing it. He talks about the strong connection Hezbollah has with Venezuela. It’s very alarming.
Over the years I have heard a few convicted fraudsters and money launders give presentations on their schemes and the consequences they suffered. Greed is certainly a central motivator for these people. Often times their schemes start out small and progress to larger operations but not always. The never tend to end very well for them or for their families. The high life they led usually always end up in ruin at every imaginable level.
I have a lot of respect for people like Mr. Aguilar who change the course of their life to make such significant amends.
Please watch the ACFE video.
President and Principal Consultant
Clarium Fraud and Compliance Solutions Ltd.