The right criminal enterprise can make a lot of money. However, that money can’t be spent unless the criminals can make it seem like it has been gained legitimately.
In other words, they need to “launder” the dirty money they get from drug sales, weapons sales or human trafficking by running it through “clean” hands. That’s where money mules come into play.
Money mules help criminal groups prosper
A money mule is anybody who helps a criminal organization get their illegal gains moved around in an attempt to make the funds look legitimate. These days, it’s very popular for money mules to be recruited online, especially through social media or help wanted sites. Criminals look for:
- Older people who may not be as canny about such scams as younger ones
- Students who are traveling from one country to another for school
- Students who are simply naive about the danger of online deals
- People who are desperately seeking quick money because of financial problems
- Job seekers who are just down on their luck and grateful enough to get work that they overlook irregularities by their so-called “employers”
- Lonely people who can be lured into helping someone they believe is a romantic interest
Often, money mules are asked to deposit checks into their personal accounts, then allowed to keep their “pay” for the service. They may even be asked to hold money in online accounts like PayPal or Venmo for safekeeping, then transfer the bulk of it back (less a fee) to their contact.
Wittingly involved in the money laundering scheme or not (and many are not), money mules can be charged with a federal crime – and the consequences can be very serious. If you have been accused of money laundering, take immediate steps to protect your rights and your future.