- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 13, 2005

A 38-year-old Silver Spring woman pleaded guilty yesterday in U.S. District Court in Washington to operating an unlicensed money-transmission business that sent more than $15 million to locations overseas, including Senegal, Sierra Leone, China, United Arab Emirates, Turkey and India.

U.S. Attorney Kenneth L. Wainstein said Aissatou Pita Barry’s guilty plea is the first conviction in the District under federal statutes that make it illegal to transfer money without obtaining a license to operate a money-transmission business and for failing to register her business with the Treasury Department.

Barry faces up to five years in prison and fines totaling $250,000 at a sentencing hearing before U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbana.

Her conviction is the latest enforcement action in a nationwide crackdown by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on unlicensed money-transmission businesses.

The USA Patriot Act, which was signed into law in October 2001, enhanced the agency’s ability to combat the international movement of illicit funds through such businesses.

During yesterday’s plea proceedings, Miss Barry admitted that she incorporated Guinex International Inc. in the District in August 1999 with the stated purpose of transmitting money from the United States to various parts of the world.

ICE spokesman Juan Tayco said that since its inception, Guinex has conducted transactions on behalf of about 5,000 customers and was involved in 65,000 transactions between October 2001 and November 2004 — during which the company received deposits in cash, personal and traveler’s checks, money orders and wire transfers totaling more than $17 million.

He said Guinex charged a fee of 10 percent of the amount transferred.

Guinex, in turn, transferred more than $15.5 million via wires overseas — to countries including Guinea, Gambia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Hong Kong, Singapore, China, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, India, Britain and France — for further distribution to people designated by Guinex customers in the United States, Mr. Tayco said.

According to prosecutors, Miss Barry and other Guinex employees provided customers with the numbers of bank accounts they controlled and Guinex instructed customers that they could make deposits directly into those accounts. Miss Barry and other Guinex workers did not ask customers to provide any information about the source of the money they were transmitting.

During her court appearance, Miss Barry acknowledged that $273,627 seized by the government from assets belonging to her and her company was property involved in her operation of Guinex. The court issued a preliminary order of forfeiture for those funds.

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