Formed just over a month ago, new unit is behind recent actions against processors
The recent seizure warrant action taken against Maryland e-cash processors in the United States is now believed to be the work of a unit formed just over a month ago. The Baltimore office of the group is managed by Stefan Cassella, who has experience as an assistant state's attorney and as an assistant attorney general in Maryland.
According to the Daily Record newspaper, reporting on the introduction of the new Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section on August 18, it is led by a Justice Department veteran and US Attorney named Rod J. Rosenstein and comprises a reshuffled group of three prosecutors and two paralegals.
The US Attorney's office said the general objective of the section was "to go after the fruits and instrumentalities of crime," a task that apparently now includes online gambling transactions.
The newspaper reported that Richard Kay, a longtime prosecutor who has coordinated asset forfeiture in the major crimes section in Baltimore for much of his 19-year tenure, and Christen Sproule, a government lawyer in the Greenbelt office, are the other attorneys specialising in forfeiture and restitution.
The group will pursue both criminal and civil forfeiture actions - a powerful weapon for federal prosecutors because the civil standard of proof is only a preponderance of the evidence, not beyond a reasonable doubt.
In a civil forfeiture proceeding, anybody who stakes a claim to the money has an obligation to prove where it came from, Rosenstein said when the unit was launched. Silence can be used against you in a civil matter in a way it can't in a criminal matter, he added.
Rosenstein said that the new section will work with state and local law enforcement as well, a partnership that those offices "should be excited about because federal forfeiture authority is much broader than that of the state and because a substantial share of the assets recovered will be returned to the local agency."
The Daily Record has also revealed that the new group will also oversee the review of Suspicious Activity Reports submitted by financial institutions to the IRS and other federal agencies. Rosenstein called the reports a tremendous source of intelligence that have heretofore been underutilised.
Casella came in for special mention by Rosenstein, who described him as one of the leading national experts on asset forfeitures with a broad perspective on how such programs are run across the country and a specialist who has published on the topic.
Rounding out the group are paralegals LaTonia Kelly and Naquita Ervin.
Unconfirmed reports are that agents using 'sting' tactics have been involved in the unit's investigations into specific online casinos, using their membership to 'follow the money trail' and target processors.