The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) has announced that the Western Union Remission Fund began a distribution of about US$40 million in funds forfeited to the United States from the Western Union Company (Western Union) to about 25,000 victims located in the Caribbean, the United States and other places.
The DOJ said on Friday that these victims stand to recover the full amount of their losses.
It said this is the first distribution in the second phase of the Western Union Remission distributions.
The DOJ said the first phase of distributions paid more than US$365 million to over 148,000 victims, all of whom received full compensation for their losses.
The Justice Department anticipates authorising more distributions for victims in the coming months.
The second phase of the Western Union Remission was opened in March 2022 to provide victims who had not filed petitions in the first phase of distributions an opportunity to file for remission, the DOJ said.
It said it continues to accept petitions for remission from those victimised by the scheme.
“The latest distribution of the Western Union Remission Fund compensated thousands more victims harmed by predatory schemes,” said acting assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
“Victim assistance is a primary goal of the Department’s Asset Forfeiture Program, and this latest distribution is a testament to the impact asset forfeiture can have in compensating and making victims whole.”
US Attorney Gerard M. Karam for the Middle District of Pennsylvania said: “Today’s distribution of US$39.6 million to thousands of victims to compensate them for their losses demonstrates our commitment to hold all responsible parties accountable and to ensure justice for the victims who were financially harmed. We thank our law enforcement partners who continue to work tirelessly on behalf of the victims.”
“The US Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) is committed to protecting victims of fraud and will continue to investigate those perpetrating such schemes,” said Postal Inspector in Charge Christopher Nielsen of the USPIS Philadelphia Division.
“This US$39 million disbursement to 25,000 victims brings the total disbursed to over $404 million to over 174,000 victims in the Western Union Remission process. We would like to thank our partners in this extraordinary effort especially the Justice Department’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section,” he added.
The DOJ said that, in 2017, Western Union entered into a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) with the United States.
Pursuant to the DPA, it said Western Union acknowledged responsibility for its “criminal conduct, which included violations of the Bank Secrecy Act and aiding and abetting wire fraud, and agreed to forfeit US$586 million, which has been made available to compensate victims of the international consumer fraud scheme through the remission process.
“Western Union simultaneously resolved a parallel civil investigation with the Federal Trade Commission,” the DOJ said.
In this scheme, it said fraudsters targeted consumers, including seniors, through multiple scams.
The DOJ said three specific scams directed towards seniors include the grandparent scam, where the fraudster would pose as the victim’s relative in need of immediate money to avoid personal harm, lottery, or sweepstakes scams, where the fraudster would tell the victim that they had won a large cash prize but had to pay fees such as taxes to claim the prize; and romance scams, where the fraudster would pose as an online love interest and request funds for a visit or for another purpose.
In each of these scams, the fraudsters convinced their victims to send money through Western Union, the DOJ said.
It said certain owners, operators, or employees of Western Union agent locations were complicit in the schemes.
“Western Union aided and abetted the fraud scheme by failing to suspend or terminate complicit agents and by allowing them to continue to process fraud-induced monetary transactions,” the DOJ said. “Western Union fulfilled its obligations under the DPA and the court granted the motion to dismiss the information.”