How to Get your SAR noticed by Law Enforcement?
In the first quarter of 2015 SARs submitted for depository institutions totaled 213,280. In 2014, the total number was 886,927. The submissions have gradually increased since the introduction of the electronic SAR form in 2012. With those large numbers you may be thinking, what’s the point in completing the SAR and who is going to look at it? As a result of the data being captured electronically, FinCEN is able to provide analytic support to law enforcement which in turn has improved money laundering prevention and detection programs. When completing SARs keep in mind the following:
- Even though the suspicious activity report contains both critical and non-critical fields, FinCEN guidance directs financial institutions to complete all non-critical fields for information which the Bank has knowledge. Additional non-critical fields may aid law enforcement in the future investigation of reported activity.
- When SARs are completed with fields automatically populated through BSA monitoring software, ensure that all fields are being populated with information from the Bank’s core system. If not, this information may have to be input manually or the Bank may need to work with their vendor to capture the data.
- Start the SAR narrative with the conclusion so the “Why” of the suspicious activity will be easily identified by law enforcement when reviewing the SARs.
- Instead of listing transactions in the SAR narrative describe the flow of funds. Be concise and to the point as to what activity occurred.
- Incorporate a secondary review process in the BSA department or establish a SAR committee to ensure SARs are prepared properly and are understandable to a third party reviewing the report.
The importance of reporting this information was most recently proven by the case involving former US House Speaker, Dennis Hastert, who was caught structuring cash transactions to evade currency transaction reports in order to payoff an individual allegedly blackmailing him. The paper trail of his cash activity provides sufficient evidence to support his criminal activity. FinCEN also held its first Law Enforcement Awards Ceremony which recognized criminal cases where BSA data played a significant role in successful prosecutions of financial crimes. These crimes included identifying a multi-million dollar ponzi scheme, dismantling a transnational money laundering and health care fraud organization, and helping to disrupt terrorism support networks.
Next time you are filling out multiple continuous SAR on your customer think of the larger picture and the value you are providing to not only your financial institution, but to national security.