Caribbean fraud victims have received delightful news as The United States Department of Justice announced recently that the Western Union Company has begun payments of US$40 million to roughly 25,000 victims located in the Caribbean, the United States and other territories.
The DOJ also made it a point to announce that the victims are liable to recover the full amount of their loses. This has been termed as the first distribution in the second phase of the Western Union Remission Distribution.
The DOJ also stated that in the first phase, more than US$365 million were released to over 148,000 victims, all of whom were compensated the full amount.
It is also postulated that more distributions will take place in the coming months. The second phase of distributions began in March 2022 with the purpose of benefitting victims who had not petitioned under the first phase of distributions. The DOJ also said that it continues to accept claims for remission from those victimized by the scheme.
“The latest distribution of the Western Union Remission Fund compensated thousands more victims harmed by predatory schemes,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
“Victim assistance is a primary goal of the Department’s Asset Forfeiture Program, and this latest distribution is a testament to the impact asset forfeiture can have in compensating and making victims whole.”
“Today’s distribution of US$39.6 million to thousands of victims to compensate them for their losses demonstrates our commitment to hold all responsible parties accountable and to ensure justice for the victims who were financially harmed. We thank our law enforcement partners who continue to work tirelessly on behalf of the victims” stated US Attorney General for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Gerard M. Karam.
“The US Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) is committed to protecting victims of fraud and will continue to investigate those perpetrating such schemes,” said Postal Inspector in Charge Christopher Nielsen of the USPIS Philadelphia Division.
“This US$39 million disbursement to 25,000 victims brings the total disbursed to over $404 million to over 174,000 victims in the Western Union Remission process. We would like to thank our partners in this extraordinary effort especially the Justice Department’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section,” he added.
In 2017, Western Union entered into a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) with the United States, according to the DOJ.
In accordance with the DPA, it has been said that Western Union acknowledges its “criminal conduct, which included violations of the Bank Secrecy Act and aiding and abetting wire fraud, and agreed to forfeit US$586 million, which has been made available to compensate victims of the international consumer fraud scheme through the remission process. Western Union simultaneously resolved a parallel civil investigation with the Federal Trade Commission,” the DOJ said.
Through this scheme, it is said that fraudsters targeted customers, especially seniors, through multiple scams.
According to the DOJ, 3 scams were specifically aimed at targeting seniors, including the grandparent scam, where the fraudsters posed as the victim’s relatives in need of immediate money to avoid personal harm; lottery, or sweepstakes scams, where the fraudster would tell the victim that they 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.
As a part of these scams, fraudsters convinced victims to transfer money through Western Union services, according to the DOJ. They also added that certain owners, employees and operators of Western Union agent locations were complicit in the fraud.
“Western Union aided and abetted the fraud scheme by failing to suspend or terminate complicit agents and by allowing them to continue to process fraud-induced monetary transactions,” the DOJ said. “Western Union fulfilled its obligations under the DPA and the court granted the motion to dismiss the information.”