- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 26, 2005

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents have seized a U.S. oil company and 43 oil wells in Pennsylvania, as well as numerous trusts and bank accounts in Europe, as part of a 13-year investigation into a $70 million money-laundering scheme.

ICE spokesman Dean Boyd said the company and the wells, valued at $6.5 million, were owned by Shaboom Oil Inc., headquartered in Phoenix — a subsidiary of Shaboom Investments Inc. in Panama. Along with the wells, the seizure included 1,100 acres of land in the Allegheny National Forest in northwest Pennsylvania.

Mr. Boyd said ICE agents, beginning over the weekend, seized all the ownership shares in Shaboom Investments, along with the assets affiliated with Yately Investments Ltd. in Monaco, including bank accounts at Merrill Lynch and HSBC Republic Bank in Monaco.

Also seized were accounts at the Children’s Assistance Trust, Broadhurst Development Corp., Quantum Endowment Fund NV, Quantum Industrial Holdings Ltd., Asian Infrastructure Development Holdings Ltd.; Dolphin Fund PLC, and an account at Barclay’s Bank PLC in Monaco under the name of Quadrangle Nominees Ltd.

Mr. Boyd said ICE agents, along with Investigators from the Monroe County, Pa., Sheriff’s Office, located the assets after the money-laundering probe determined they had been purchased with illegal drug proceeds. A federal court in Miami had ordered them forfeited to the U.S. government.

In total, ICE and the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office have seized and turned over more than $70 million as part of the ongoing investigation.

The seizures were based on a 1981 guilty plea by Paul Edward Hindelang, who operated one of the nation’s largest marijuana smuggling operations in the late 1970s. He pleaded guilty to importing 250 tons of marijuana and conspiring to import an additional 150,000 pounds of marijuana into Florida, Louisiana and other states. As part of his plea agreement, Hindelang agreed to forfeit $640,000 to U.S. authorities.

Mr. Boyd said that several years later, ICE agents learned Hindelang had hidden millions of dollars worth of drug funds in overseas accounts. Working with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, ICE began “Operation Cash Extraction” in 1992 to track down Hindelang’s hidden funds.

After years of investigative work, he said, agents found many of the assets in a maze of offshore accounts and corporations in Switzerland, Panama, the Turks & Caicos Islands, the Netherlands Antilles, the Cayman Islands and other locations.

Mr. Boyd said that in late 1997, Hindelang was confronted with this evidence and admitted he had previously turned over control of his drug fortune to a Costa Rican national who acted as his nominee in Switzerland. ICE agents also learned that the nominee had moved these funds from Switzerland to locations around the globe.

In 1998, he said, ICE agents seized $50 million from accounts tied to Hindelang. Under the federal asset-sharing program, ICE later turned over half this amount to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office for its role in the investigation.

ICE agents continued their search and, in 1999, located additional drug proceeds in bank accounts in the Channel Islands and invested in a property in Colorado. ICE agents began forfeiture proceedings and were ultimately able to recover approximately $15 million in assets that constituted illicit proceeds of drug sales.

Last year, Mr. Boyd said, further investigation by ICE and the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office turned up an additional $6.5 million worth of illicit assets in Monaco and the United States. In September, a federal judge in Miami ordered those assets forfeited to the U.S. government.

Late last week, he said, ICE agents served the judge’s order on Shaboom Oil in Arizona and took over the firm. The investigation into Hindelang’s drug funds continues, he said.

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