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Law Enforcement Suggestions When Preparing Suspicious Activity Reports

By Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Financial institutions have done an outstanding job partnering with law enforcement through robust Suspicious Activity Reporting. Without question, SAR reporting along with Currency Transaction Reports and other Bank Secrecy Act filings are extremely useful and heavily relied on for predicating and supporting criminal investigations as well as supporting intelligence gathering and analysis on criminal and counterterrorism matters. Agents and analysts spend many hours reviewing these intelligence-rich reports and are often asked by financial institutions how their reports can be improved to assist law enforcement?s efforts.

Although many of these reports are reviewed individually by agents and analysts, new technology has vastly improved law enforcement?s efforts to develop electronic tools to more fully exploit the intelligence in SARs. Use of these tools not only identifies potential cases but also allows law enforcement to identify emerging crime problems and new methods being used by criminals.

The below observations are those items that agents and analysts have noted that would assist them when accessing and reviewing SARs. These observations are provided for consideration by the financial institutions during the SAR preparation process:

  1. Begin the narrative with a summary sentence to give the reader a snapshot of what the details will discuss. This is particularly important on lengthy narratives, so the reader has a framework for what the narrative is describing;
  2. Note what supporting documentation exists so we know what evidence is readily available and what we should request when following up with the financial institution;
  3. Indicate whether there are employees of the financial institution that have personal knowledge, such as conversations with the suspect or whether any site visits or inspections were conducted. If the filer does not want to name the employee(s), simply indicate that those conversations/visits occurred and maintain details with the supporting documentation;
  4. For SARs related to suspicious correspondent account activity, include the details of all the accounts involved, including the correspondent account numbers and names, sub-correspondent account numbers, names, and addresses and actual account numbers and names affected;
  5. If other parties are identified only in the narrative, provide any known identifiers for them as well. These include date of birth, social security number, driver?s license number, passport number, address and/or other known addresses;
  6. For SARs related to computer intrusion, include technical details such as any IP addresses and email addresses;
  7. For Mortgage Fraud SARs, identify all professionals in the narrative so links in SARs filed by different financial institutions can be easily identified to focus on organized schemes to defraud. These professionals include:

    a. Real Estate agent
    b. Loan company
    c. Loan officer
    d. Appraiser
    e. Title company
    f. Closing agent/attorney

  8. Select multiple violation types when appropriate to facilitate analysis of the data to assess crime problems;
  9. The ?OTHER? box for violation type should only be selected when none of the other boxes apply. When it is used, please include a description of that ?other? activity;
  10. Keep in mind that the narrative section contains no formatting, so formatted data (such as tables) entered by the filer are lost in the version seen by law enforcement;
  11. Identify any law enforcement agency that has been notified of the suspicious activity, HOWEVER

    a. Do not include details that the law enforcement officer may have shared during discussions with the bank, and
    b. Do not disclose that grand jury subpoenas or National Security Letters were served.

Suspicious Activity Reporting continues to play a critical role in assisting law enforcement in both criminal and terrorist activity. SARs and the continuing communication between law enforcement and financial institutions greatly enhance our efforts to evaluate, identify and pursue those that seek to victimize individuals and organizations, weaken the U.S. financial system, and threaten our nation?s security.

In addition to the information provided by representatives from the FBI and ICE on suggestions when preparing SARs, filers may find previously published tips and guidance from The SAR Activity Review on FinCEN?s website at: Index to Topics for The SAR Activity Review.

Excerpted from SAR Activity Review Issue 16, page 47

First published on 10/01/2009

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