British Columbia

Man arrested in money-laundering probe had stacks of $100 bills in his pocket, court documents say

Even as the B.C. government reviews a pair of reports on money laundering, a search warrant reveals an investigation into a Richmond man linked to thousands of dollars worth of unusual transactions.

RCMP investigating a suspect who was allegedly arrested with $10K in stacks of $100 bills

A casino employee surveys bundles of $20 bills — identified by former RCMP deputy commissioner Peter German as the denomination of choice for money launderers. (B.C. attorney general)

Even as the B.C. government reviews a pair of reports on money laundering, court documents obtained by CBC reveal an investigation into a Richmond man allegedly linked to thousands of dollars worth of suspicious casino transactions.

According to information sworn to obtain a search warrant, the Richmond RCMP's organized crime unit arrested the man for money laundering during a traffic stop last month.

CBC is not identifying the suspect or any of his alleged associates as they have not been formally charged.

At the time of his arrest, the court documents say the man was carrying $10,000 worth of $100 Canadian bills bundled into two stacks, tied by a red elastic band and stuck into his left chest jacket pocket.

Police also allegedly seized a pair of iPhones along with $1,450 from the man's wallet.

2nd money laundering report

In a scathing report released last June, former RCMP deputy commissioner Peter German said Lower Mainland casinos had too long "unwittingly served as laundromats" for serious crime.

By some estimates, as much as $2 billion in dirty money flowed through B.C. casinos before the government cracked down on the problem.

Former RCMP deputy commissioner Peter German released a scathing review of anti-money laundering practices last June. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

German delivered a second report to the province last week on the links between money laundering, real estate, luxury cars and horse racing. And an expert panel also delivered a set of recommendations to B.C.'s finance ministry on ways to close loopholes in the real estate market.

The province is likely to publicly release both sets of findings later this year.

German's first report came with 48 recommendations that observers say have gone a long way to reduce the flow of dirty money through casinos.

According to the B.C. Lottery Corporation, the number and dollar value of suspicious transactions has dropped from a peak of $27.2 million in July 2015 to $217,195 in January 2019.

But as the latest court documents suggest, problems still remain.

11 'unusual financial transactions'

According to the search warrant filed in late March, the investigation began in early February with two patrons who were seen feeding $20 bills into slot machines at the River Rock Casino for a short time before cashing out nearly $3,000. 

One of them was allegedly dropped off and picked up by the suspect's vehicle, a black Honda Odyssey.

Two days later, another man allegedly emerged from the same vehicle before going into the casino and placing "an unknown amount of $20 bills for a buy-in."

According to a search warrant, the suspect's vehicle was observed in connection with a series of unusual transactions involving River Rock Casino patrons. (CBC)

The documents say he took back his funds and went to an ATM machine, "where it appeared he was able to withdraw an unknown amount. The suspicious financial transactions on this day totaled $2,460."

The police flagged a third incident in late February when two River Rock patrons were seen approaching the man's Honda Odyssey in the parking lot.

One of them — a woman associated with 11 "unusual financial transactions" by BCLC — allegedly entered the car for about five minutes.

After she emerged, the pair allegedly returned to the casino where the woman "sat at a table and removed $1,000 in $100 bills from her wallet."

"[The woman] presented the money for a buy-in and casino chips were presented to her, but before [she] could accept them, they were returned to the dealer," the warrant says.

The woman and her partner then left the casino.

'Committed to mitigating criminal activity'

RCMP say the investigation is still active and no formal charges have been laid. They are awaiting the return of forensic and digital evidence before forwarding the file to the Crown.

A spokesperson for Great Canadian Gaming Corporation — which owns River Rock Casino — said the company works with the lottery corporation to ensure the integrity of the gaming industry.

"While we are unable to speak to the specifics of the incident in question, we will note that it was the diligent efforts of our team that led to the suspicious activity being identified, immediate steps taken to intercept and stop the action in question and reported to the BCLC," said Terrance Doyle, Great Canadian's chief compliance officer.

Surveillance video released by the Ministry of the Attorney General shows bundles of $20 bills dumped at a B.C. casino in an example of apparent money laundering. (B.C. Ministry of Attorney General)

In a statement, BCLC said the corporation was unaware of the search warrant but was aware of the transactions which triggered the investigation.

"BCLC is committed to mitigating criminal activity and ensuring the integrity of our business," the corporation said in an email. "BCLC remains ever vigilant of money laundering risks."

'Caution for the offence of money laundering'

According to the search warrant, investigators began following the man at the end of February. He owns a new condo less than five minutes from the River Rock casino.

Police followed the suspect's minivan as he drove around Richmond, at one point removing the licence plates from the car and obtaining a new licence plate number for the vehicle.

They also followed him into Vancouver where he travelled to Trump Tower, removed a pair of black bags from his trunk and met with an unknown female.

According to the warrant, the suspect was arrested on the afternoon of March 13 during a traffic stop.

He was provided "with his Charter rights and police caution for the offence of money laundering, to which [he] stated that he understood.

German's initial report described $20 bills as "the preferred currency of drug traffickers," highlighting a series of government failures and bureaucratic blunders that saw a river of dirty cash fuel both the opioid epidemic and the housing affordability crisis.

About the Author

Jason Proctor

@proctor_jason

Jason Proctor is a reporter in British Columbia for CBC News and has covered the B.C. courts and mental health issues in the justice system extensively.

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