Artichoke Joe's Casino to pay $8M BSA/AML CMP
The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) has announced an $8 million civil money penalty against Artichoke Joe’s, a California corporation, doing business as Artichoke Joe’s Casino (AJC). AJC, one of the largest card clubs in California, was found to have willfully violated U.S. anti-money laundering (AML) laws from October 2009 to November 2017. During this 8-year period, AJC failed to implement and maintain an effective AML program, and failed to detect, deter, and timely report many suspicious transactions, reported FinCEN. The $8,000,000 penalty is due by December 15, 2017.
According to FinCEN's announcement, AJC "turned a blind eye to loan sharking, suspicious transfers of high-value gaming chips, and flagrant criminal activity that occurred in plain sight." In March 2011, AJC was the subject of a raid by state and Federal law enforcement which led to the racketeering indictment and conviction of two AJC customers for loan-sharking and other illicit activities conducted at AJC. AJC senior-level employees knew that loan-sharks were conducting criminal activity through the card club and using AJC gaming chips to facilitate illegal transactions. Nonetheless, AJC failed to file any Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) on this activity. For example, there were several instances in which loan-sharks provided AJC chips to customers on the gaming floor within plain sight of AJC employees.
AJC also failed to implement adequate internal controls, which exposed the card club to a heightened risk of money laundering and other criminal activity. In particular, AJC failed to adopt adequate policies and procedures to address risks associated with gaming practices that allow customers to pool or co-mingle their bets with relative anonymity. Further, AJC did not establish procedures for obtaining and incorporating information from propositional players (players paid by casinos or card clubs to wager at a game) or other employees who may have observed suspicious transactions. AJC also failed to file complete and timely reports on suspicious transactions involving potentially structured chip redemptions and purchases, and redemptions of large volumes of chips with no cash-in or gaming activity.
This is the third enforcement action against a card club for FinCEN, the only federal regulator with AML enforcement authority over card clubs.
UPDATE: On May 3, 2018, FinCEN rescinded its November 2017 order and replaced it with an order for an $8 million CMP, with $3 million suspended pending AJC's completion of Undertakings agreed to in the order.