Investigators expose legal workarounds in real estate

by 03 Feb 2016
On the heels of the U.S. Treasury’s recent drive to clamp down on money laundering via real estate transactions, investigators revealed that unscrupulous elements make full use of legal workarounds to funnel dirty money into the United States.
 
In an investigative report published by The Real Deal, undercover agents using hidden cameras have found that allegedly shady foreign deals were conducted with advice provided by none other than top real estate lawyers like John Jankoff and Gerald Ross.
 
The investigators, who were working with transparency NGO Global Witness, took on the identities of professionals operating as representatives of foreign officials who were supposedly looking at secretly moving their finds to the United States.
 
“If it’s not in his name, then he needs what is known as a straw man,” John Jankoff of Jankoff & Gabe P.C. told the agents, who said they were employed by an African mining minister.
 
“Straw man” refers to a trusted third party who would purchase a property to cover up the perpetrator’s involvement.
 
Gerald Ross of Fryer & Ross L.L.P. defended such advice, saying that clients who are bringing significant sums are not looking for clandestine channels because they are hiding something.
 
“It’s because they’re afraid of being screwed by somebody,” Ross told the New York Times.
 
In the undercover investigation by Global Witness, Ross was quoted as saying that his firm’s bank accounts might be a possible avenue for moving the false mining minister’s funds.

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