Criminals Use U.S. Shell Companies

You need to read The Great Rip Off by Global Witness.

The report provides excellent case studies of criminal schemes involving the use of anonymous shell companies in the United States.

Three key takeaways for money laundering investigators:

  • Electronic access to specific company information varies by state.  States like Florida, Ohio and Kansas allow access to incorporation dates, beneficial owners, directors and shareholders, annual reports.  Whereas Delaware and New Jersey limit access by only making the company formation date and registered agent name and address publically available.
  • Businesses may be required to register and file paperwork with multiple state offices and divisions; for example an entity may be required to file Articles of Incorporation with the Secretary of State and tax information with the Department of Revenue. Investigators should check with all offices directly and not rely solely on Lexis Nexus or other data aggregators.
  • It is critical for investigators to review copies of all publically available business information made available via state business registries as the paper trail may contain key identifying information and handwritten signatures that may link entities to a larger criminal network.
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