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Check-cashing schemers plead guilty to AML, Bank Secrecy Act violations

Three men pleaded guilty in federal court in New York City Monday for a check-cashing scheme designed to evade anti-money laundering reporting requirements.

Robert Petrosyants and his twin brother Zhan, both of Fort Lee, New Jersey, admitted to conspiring to violate the Bank Secrecy Act for filing false Currency Transaction Reports (CTRs) for cash transactions of more than $10,000.

Lasha Goletiani of Brooklyn, New York pleaded guilty to the same charge.

The Petrosyant brothers operated medical-billing companies that filed no-fault accident claims with insurance companies on behalf of medical clinics and equipment providers.

After being paid by insurance companies for the claims, the defendants drew checks payable to a number of shell companies. The shell companies did no legitimate business and were incorporated in the names of students who had short-term visas to study in the United States.

The checks were then cashed by Goletiani and Zhan Petrosyants at Belair Payroll Services Inc., a check-cashing business in Flushing, New York.

They used fake names when cashing the checks and caused Belair to file CTRs saying the shell companies or their nominee owners had received the cash. In truth, Goletiani and Zhan Petrosyants were cashing the checks in their names while most of the nominee shell-company owners were not in the country.

Under the Bank Secrecy Act, financial institutions, including check-cashing businesses, are required to file a CTR with the Department of the Treasury for any transaction involving more than $10,000 in currency on a single day.

The check-casher is also required to verify and record the names and addresses of those conducting the currency transaction and record the persons on whose behalf the transaction was conducted, plus the date and amount.

The defendants each face up to five years in prison. No sentencing date has been set.

Belair and its owner, Craig Panzera, pleaded guilty in November 2013 to failing to maintain an effective anti-money laundering program and agreed to forfeit over $3.2 million.

The DOJ's February 14, 2014 release is here.


Julie DiMauro is the executive editor of FCPA Blog and can be reached here.