- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 14, 2005

Terrorists looking to move millions of dollars out of the United States to fund global strikes have resorted to a kaleidoscope of new schemes aimed at hiding illicit cash, but one of the nation’s top terrorism investigators says law-enforcement authorities are up to the challenge.

Marcy Forman, who supervisors 6,000 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents at 156 field and 52 foreign offices as head of the agency’s Office of Investigations, said newly created law-enforcement partnerships are “choking off the money supply that will choke off the terrorists.”

Those same partnerships, Ms. Forman said during an interview at her ICE headquarters office, also are working to target criminal syndicates, including alien and drug smugglers, violent street gangs, arms dealers and money launderers.

Those partnerships, she said, are a key component of “Operation Cornerstone,” ICE’s flagship initiative aimed at safeguarding the U.S. economy by targeting the schemes terrorists and criminals use to divert and store illicit cash.

“Terrorist and criminal organizations are constantly looking for new ways to hide the illicit profits they make from their illegal ventures, so it is important for us to be able to adapt and adjust to respond to that environment,” she said.

While millions of dollars in illegally obtained cash is being routed through phony financial institutions, smuggling operations and fraudulent commodity trading, Ms. Forman said, “there is always a financial component” that authorities, working with the private sector, can target.

“Our goal is to dismantle these criminal organizations and eliminate systemic vulnerabilities before they can exploit them for their own purposes,” Ms. Forman said.

The veteran of 25 years of law enforcement is no stranger to the challenge of tracking down illicit cash and the criminals who hide it. Before the creation of ICE in 2003 as the investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, she led “Operation Green Quest,” a multiagency financial-crimes task force headed by the U.S. Customs Service.

During a 19-month period, Green Quest seized more than $35 million in illicit profits in an initiative designed to freeze accounts, seize assets and bring charges against those funding terrorism.

Under her new venture, Operation Cornerstone, Ms. Forman said, ICE has expanded its working partnership with federal, state and local law-enforcement authorities and with the financial and trade sectors to identify and eliminate vulnerabilities.

During fiscal 2004, the Office of Investigations conducted 7,670 financial probes, seized $202 million in illicit profits, made 1,368 arrests and obtained 895 criminal indictments. It also met with 20,600 private-sector representatives to share information on financial and trade investigations.

“We have a very talented work force with the expertise and passion to get the job done,” Ms. Forman said. “And while the kinds of financial investigations they have undertaken are long and complex, they are essential if we are to beat the criminals at their own game.”

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