Chris Swecker

Financial crime fighters

BSA officers play a critical role in assisting law enforcement.

November 19, 2019

Based on 40 years of experience as a prosecutor, FBI agent, and bank security officer, Chris Swecker did not mince words in acknowledging the importance of Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) officers in helping law enforcement fight crime.

“I think the BSA database is the most important database in law enforcement,” says Swecker, who spoke at the CUNA BSA/AML Certification Conference with NASCUS this week in Tempe, Ariz. “Law enforcement desperately needs your help in this global, multijurisdictional environment that we’re operating in today. You play a hugely critical role in that.”

Swecker says law enforcement has limited data mining information to initiate investigations. BSA and anti-money laundering (AML) reports provide much of that valuable information. “You’re there where transactions are taking place,” Swecker says. “Credit card transactions, money wires, (doing business as) accounts, all manner of accounts. The FBI can’t see that.”

He says money laundering is a necessary consequence of almost all profit-generating crimes. “Virtually every federal indictment includes a money laundering count,” he adds. “It’s one of the most powerful tools in law enforcement’s toolbox.”

Swecker says the money laundering statute, 18 USC 1956, includes nearly all fraudulent activities. “It’s probably the broadest statute there is in U.S. criminal enforcement.”

Fraud accounts for $620 billion in annual losses in the U.S., Swecker says. “It’s not just check fraud and account fraud. It’s systemic fraud,” he says. “If you know what you’re looking for, it does come out.”

For example, health care fraud accounts for $80 billion in annual losses, he says.

BSA information can also assist law enforcement with counterterrorism, which is often hidden through check, mortgage, or cigarette tax fraud. Swecker recalled one case in which $11 million of infant formula was stolen.

“There are tremendous opportunities to uncover criminal activities that will lead you to terrorist activities,” Swecker says.

Swecker reminded conference participants that they could be going up against some of the most sophisticated criminals. “If you believe in what you do and have passion for the work, you’ll be good at it.”