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FinCEN Director: Casinos Must Report Suspicious Transactions, Including Suspect Use of Cryptocurrencies

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America’s federal financial crimes enforcement agency, FinCEN, has noticed “a gap” in the reporting of illicit use of cryptocurrencies at casinos and card clubs in recent years, the agency’s director told attendees at the 12th Annual Las Vegas Anti-Money Laundering Conference this week.

Director Kenneth A. Blanco also added that he is “concern(ed)…to hear about some compliance budgets being cut by casinos looking to trim costs and retain gamblers.”

He called proper financial monitoring in the US a matter of national security and said SARs (suspicious activity reports) figured into nearly 60% of FBI investigations and roughly 20% of anti-terrorism investigations.

Blanco said SAR (suspicious activity report) filings by casinos and card clubs have nonetheless been declining across the US for the past two years:

“We saw… a decrease of more than 9 percent in SARs filed between 2017 and 2018…From 2017 to 2018, the top five SAR filings by state were Nevada, Louisiana, California, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. While New Jersey experienced a 10% increase, possibly tied to Sports Betting, Nevada (-7%), Louisiana (-15%), and Pennsylvania (-15%) all experienced declines in overall filings, which is symptomatic of the decline in overall industry filings. Other large decreases came from Oklahoma (-51%), Washington (-46%), and Ohio (-45%).”

Cryptocurrencies are often used for online gambling, and there is much overlap between the crypto and gambling worlds. Virtual currencies can flow into casinos through online/mobile apps or at brick-and-mortar establishments.

Blanco said reporting of suspicious use of cryptocurrencies, in particular, needs to be more ‘robust’:

“While FinCEN has received some filings from casinos regarding cyber-enabled crimes, (virtual currency)-related SAR filings by casinos have not been as robust as expected since the May CVC guidance and advisory were published…Casinos should be filing SARs when they encounter suspicious CVC activity…”

He advised casinos to review guidance and advisory information regarding the processing of virtual currency transactions by FinCEN regulated industries, adding:

“FinCEN expects that your casino or card club is monitoring your sports betting programs for potentially suspicious activity. This includes offering sports betting through a mobile app.”

Monitoring of must be comprehensive and can be very technical when it involves cryptocurrencies said Blanco:

“You must establish and implement procedures for using all available information to detect and report suspicious transactions…(Y)ou need to ensure that this is accounted for in your policies, procedures, …internal controls… (and) risk assessments. You should also consider how you will review and conduct due diligence on transactions in (virtual currency). How will you conduct blockchain analytics to determine the source of the (virtual currency)? How will you incorporate (virtual currency)-related indicators into your SAR filings as appropriate?”

On-site compliance officers are expected to be intimately familiar with FinCEN requirements, he added:

“The advisory highlights prominent typologies, associated ‘red flags,’ and identifies information that would be most valuable to law enforcement if contained in suspicious activity reports…FinCEN issued FAQs in 2016 to assist financial institutions in reporting such cyber indicators and cyber-enabled financial crime…available on our website. This is an area you can expect your examiners to ask about.”

Blanco noted that, “Minimal Gaming with Large Transactions is the highest reported activity with more than 5,000 SARs reflecting this activity…(and that) Reports of Chip Walking have dramatically increased since this was added to the SAR form in the summer of 2018. Chip Walking is now the second most selected suspicious activity on the SAR form, with more than 4,400 reports being cited this year to date.”

Chip-walking is the process of buying volumes of gambling chips at a casino and then using them to pay employees working in an underground business such as a drug lab or marijuana operation.
Blanco said that information collected by casinos to protect their interests can be fed onto SAR filings, which in turn can be legally distributed to parent companies and affiliates within the US to reduce risk throughout the business.

“We know the kind of significant information that casinos are able to develop on gaming customers. This information is extraordinary and relevant, and is already used by casinos for a variety of marketing and other business purposes…This information can and should be used by your compliance personnel as they monitor customers for suspicious activity.”

The FinCEN director encouraged casinos to ensure that various departments: legal, compliance and IT, for instance, are sharing information and working in tandem to enhance compliance and risk management:

“Information developed by your security departments for combating and preventing fraud should also be shared with compliance personnel. The legal department should also alert the compliance department when a subpoena is received. A subpoena could trigger reviews of customer risk ratings and account activity.”

Blanco also said that quietude in enforcement doesn’t mean none is underway or pending:

“There is a misconception that just because FinCEN has not publicly issued an enforcement action against a casino or card club since last year that FinCEN is not looking at this financial sector. Let me assure you, this is not the case. FinCEN is continually looking at compliance across all financial institutions and will not hesitate to act when it identifies financial institutions that violate the BSA. It is also important to note that not all enforcement actions are public.”

Blanco ended by saying that casinos are legally obligated to assure the integrity of their monitoring and reporting systems:

“Remember that this is not just a best practice, but a requirement under the AML program rule for casinos and card clubs…To be clear—we take the culture of compliance seriously. This is a national security issue: not something to be taken lightly—and we will not take it lightly.”

He said, “BSA data also aids investigations tied to bulk cash smuggling, gang activity, significant fraud, transnational organized crime, bribery, health care fraud, corruption, embezzlement, kleptocracy, and third-party money laundering, among other crimes.”

He also noted that casinos and card clubs have a role in determining beneficial ownership information about potential shell companies:

“Its importance to our national security cannot be (over)stated…Criminals of all kinds, including terrorists, establish domestic shell companies to mask and further their criminal activity, to invest and buy assets with illicit proceeds, and to prevent law enforcement and others from efficiently and effectively investigating tips or leads, thus allowing these bad actors to hide from justice and continue their bad acts.”

Source: https://www.crowdfundinsider.com/2019/08/150680-fincen-director-casinos-must-report-suspicious-transactions-including-suspect-use-of-cryptocurrencies/

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No, the New York Times has not admitted to peddling ‘fake news’ about most recent Kavanaugh claim

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The conservative publication PJ Media says in a headline spreading virally on Facebook that the New York Times admitted a new allegation against Justice Brett Kavanaugh is “fake news,” but that is misleading.

The back-and-forth stems from a Sept. 14 report in the New York Times that contains a previously unreported accusation of sexual impropriety by Kavanaugh while a student at Yale.

After its initial reporting, the New York Times added more information to its story online and published an editor’s note explaining its decision.

We’ll walk through what changed in the Times story in a second. But it was not as PJ Media claimed in its headline, “New York Times Now Admits New Kavanaugh Accusation Is Fake News.”

“On Sunday, The New York Times added a retraction to its story attacking Brett Kavanaugh, admitting that the female student allegedly assaulted had no recollection of the event. (Writers) Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly have egg on their faces,” a blurb that ran alongside the PJ Media article reads.

PJ Media’s managing editor Paula Bolyard told us that the PJ Media article was an opinion piece, and said that author Matt Margolis’ use of the phrase “fake news” was a “rhetorical manner of expression.” Bolyard noted that other outlets — among them CNN, The Hill and New York Magazine — referred to the New York Times’ update as a “correction.”

There are elements of opinion in PJ Media’s post, but it’s important for online readers to know that the Times did not retract or reverse its reporting, as PJ Media’s headline suggests.

Error and update

The article in question was adapted from a forthcoming book by New York Times reporters Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly, “The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation.” The book delves into Kavanaugh’s background, including an alleged pattern of sexual misconduct that first came into public view around the time of Kavanaugh’s contentious Oct. 2018 Supreme Court confirmation hearing.

The Sept. 14, 2019, New York Times article “Brett Kavanaugh Fit In With the Privileged Kids. She Did Not” ignited a firestorm, and even led to some Democratic presidential candidates calling for Kavanaugh’s impeachment.

It depicted a previously unreported scene in which Kavanaugh, then a Yale student in the 1980s, was said to have engaged in lewd conduct at a “drunken dorm party.” Here’s how the account appears in the New York Times; the bolded section was added after the article’s initial publication:

“We also uncovered a previously unreported story about Mr. Kavanaugh in his freshman year that echoes Ms. Ramirez’s allegation. A classmate, Max Stier, saw Mr. Kavanaugh with his pants down at a different drunken dorm party, where friends pushed his penis into the hand of a female student. Mr. Stier, who runs a nonprofit organization in Washington, notified senators and the F.B.I. about this account, but the F.B.I. did not investigate and Mr. Stier has declined to discuss it publicly. We corroborated the story with two officials who have communicated with Mr. Stier; the female student declined to be interviewed and friends say she does not recall the episode.”

And here is the editor’s note the New York Times published Sept. 15, 2019, explaining the change to its story:

“An earlier version of this article, which was adapted from a forthcoming book, did not include one element of the book’s account regarding an assertion by a Yale classmate that friends of Brett Kavanaugh pushed his penis into the hand of a female student at a drunken dorm party. The book reports that the female student declined to be interviewed and friends say that she does not recall the incident. That information has been added to the article.”

Amid the fallout over its reporting, the Times’ deputy editorial page editor James Dao published written answers to five questions from readers, including a question about why the Times decided to print an allegation that some viewed as insufficiently supported. Here’s how Dao responded:

DAO: “The essay included a previously unreported claim that friends pushed Mr. Kavanaugh’s penis into the hand of a female Yale student during a dorm party with drunken classmates. During the authors’ investigation, they learned that a classmate, Max Stier, witnessed the event and later reported it to senators and to the F.B.I. The authors corroborated his story with two government officials, who said they found it credible. Based on that corroboration, we felt mentioning the claim as one part of a broader essay was warranted.”

New York Times spokesperson Danielle Rhoades Ha told PolitiFact the PJ Media headline is “inaccurate,” and added that “the editors’ note is not a retraction in any way.”

Dissecting the change
As the above text shows, the Times’ explanation may call Stier’s allegation into question. But nowhere does the Times admit it peddled “fake news,” which gives the impression of having misled its readers.

For their part, Times’ reporters Kelly and Pogrebin appeared on MSNBC and said the additional details were included in their original draft but were omitted as a result of an editing error. “There was zero intent to mislead anybody about the details of the incident,” Kelly said.

Ha, the Times’ spokesperson, elaborated on this explanation.

“In the original article editors decided not include some information about a female student at Yale that is provided in Kate Kelly and Robin Pogrebin’s book, including her name, in part to protect her privacy because she was not the source for the account in the adaptation,” Ha told PolitiFact. “After publication editors agreed with some readers that the adaptation should include the same information as the book, so the piece was updated.”

The Times also did not retract the article or the specific allegation against Kavanaugh, as PJ Media said. A retraction would include removing the allegation entirely because it cannot be corroborated. The source of this allegation is Max Stier, a classmate of Kavanaugh’s.

In conclusion, the New York Times said it did not initially publish all relevant information when it ran the article, and the omitted information may call into question the credibility of the accusation. But the Times has since added that information, and wrote an editor’s note explaining their decision.

The Times has not retracted its reporting on the allegation or admitted it was incorrect. Sites claiming so have gone too far.

Source: https://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2019/sep/18/no-new-york-times-has-not-admitted-peddling-fake-n/

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Three-Year-Old Florida Boy Found Asleep on New York Stranger’s Porch

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New York police are searching for answers to a tragic trio of seemingly-connected mysteries.

On Monday morning, a woman in Buffalo discovered a little boy asleep on her porch who could only tell her “the car was on fire.”

One mile away, police discovered a car with human remains inside, so badly burnt out that the make and model were not even discernible.
Meanwhile the boys parents, who are from Orlando Florida, haven’t been seen in a number of days, and are the subject of a missing persons report, along with a family friend.

While the three incidents appear to be related, police have yet to establish the connection, or piece together how the tragic events unfolded.

The “very, very complicated case”, as Buffalo Police Captain Jeff Rinaldo described it, opened on Monday night, when Lois Augsburger walked out of her Pontomac Avenue home to find a three-year-old boy asleep and unharmed in the cardboard box left out for stray cats.
“I said where’s your mommy, honey? He said ‘the car’s on fire.’ That’s all he kept saying,” she told WKBW.

“The child is not extremely verbal, which made it difficult for us to attempt to figure out the circumstances of this child’s appearance on the porch this morning,” Rinaldo said.

Meanwhile a burnt out vehicle was discovered in an industrial area one mile away, with unidentifiable human remains inside. Police did not say how many bodies.
Captain Rinaldo said they believe the vehicle fire started around 3am on Monday morning. “It burned extremely long, extremely hot, which left little remnants of the vehicle,” he told a press conference, adding that it eventually burned itself out. They hope CCTV in the area may have picked up what happened.

The boy was identified as Noelvin when his grandmother Zenaida saw the picture police posted on Facebook. She confirmed she had not spoken to her son or his girlfriend since Sunday night.

Buffalo police then issued a missing persons report for Noelvin’s mom, 24-year-old Nicole Merced Plaud; his dad, 31-year-old Miguel Anthony Valentin-Colon; and family friend, 29-year-old Dhamyl Mirella Roman-Audiffred.

In another tragic twist, Zenaida immediately flew to New York, but wasn’t allowed to take custody of the child or even see him until she submitted a custody petition.

“We just want my grandson to go back to his routine for now because I think he needs that right now,” she tearfully told reporters. “He was a loved child — he is a loved child… his parents loved him very much and were always with him. They were great parents.”

She said the family sometimes takes long road trips, but she didn’t know why they were in New York.

The missing couple have two other children, who remain safe in Florida.

Noelvin remains in the custody of Erie County Child Protective Services.

Source: https://toofab.com/2019/09/18/three-year-old-florida-boy-found-asleep-on-new-york-strangers-porch/

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6 places to go apple picking near NYC (without a car)

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Fall is fast approaching, and you want to whip up a fresh apple crostata or some spiked apple cider — but, like 55 percent of Brooklynites, you don’t have a car

New York is called the Big Apple, but it’s pretty difficult to pick the fruit in the city. Luckily, there are orchards and farms just a short train ride away — like the six listed below.

Fishkill Farms

Fishkill Farms is a 270-acre apple orchard and vegetable farm that has been in the Morgenthau family for more than 100 years. In addition to daily apple picking through Oct. 27, the farm offers wagon rides, live music, fresh donuts and a hard cider garden for adults.

(Can’t make it upstate? Fishkill Farms sells its produce at the Carroll Gardens Greenmarket from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays.)

By public transit: About 1 hour and 45 minutes. Take the Metro North Hudson Line to Beacon, and then take a 17-minute taxi ride to the farm.

Apples: Gala, Golden Supreme, McIntosh, Jonamac and Kidd’s Orange Red, Crimson Crisp, Liberty, Pixie Crunch, and Spartan.

9 Fishkill Farm Road, Hopewell Junction, N.Y. 12533

Lawrence Farms Orchard

Lawrence Farms Orchards has been offering “Pick Your Own” fruits for more than 30 years, and while it definitely has a wide selection of apples, you’ll want to come here for the “show chickens” and playful goats. Plus, you can indulge on apple cider donuts, pies and hard ice cream.
By public transit: About 1 hour and 45 minutes. Take the Metro North Hudson Line to Beacon, and then take a 17-minute taxi ride to the farm.

Apples: Zestar, Ginger Gold, Paula Red, Ozark Gold, Gala, McIntosh, AceyMac, JonaMac, Honey Crisp, Cortland, Macoun, Empire, Fuji, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, JonaGold, Musty, Cameo, Ida Red, Sun Crisp, Fortune, Braeburn, Northern Spy, Rome, Stayman Winesap, Candy Crisp, Pink Lady, and Granny Smith.

306 Frozen Ridge Road, Newburgh, N.Y. 12550

Barton Orchards

In addition to apple picking, Barton Orchards has a petting zoo, a farm market, hayrides, a haunted house, a corn maze, treetop adventures, and they also brew their own local craft beer and hard cider.

There’s a celebration happening every weekend in September, including Oktoberfest and a Jack O’Lantern Jubilee over the next two weekends respectively.

By public transit: About 2 hours. Take the Metro Harlem Line to Pawling, and then take a 16-minute taxi ride to the orchard.

Apples: Honeycrip, Galas, Cortlands, Ginger Golds, Jona Macs and McIntosh

63 Apple Tree Lane, Poughquag, N.Y. 12570

Harvest Moon Farm & Orchard

Unlike some of the other farms on this list that have been passed down from generation to generation, Harvest Moon is operated by first-generation farmers. There’s a fall festival happening every weekend through Oct. 27. Expect hayrides, apple cannons, live music, hard cider, donuts, beer on tap and a whole lot more.

By public transit: About 1 hour and 30 minutes. Take the Metro North Harlem Line to Croton Falls, then take a 7-minute taxi ride to the farm.

Apples: McIntosh

130 Hardscrabble Road, North Salem, N.Y. 10560

Wilkens Fruit & Fir Farm

Founded in 1916, Wilkens Fruit & Fir Farm boasts 180 acres and more than 40 varieties of apples. In addition to pick-your-own apples, the farm offers fresh cider and has its own winery.

By public transit: About 1 hour and 30 minutes. Take the Metro North Hudson line to Peekskill, and then take a 16-minute taxi ride to the farm.

Apples: Gala, McIntosh, Baldwin, Cortland, Macoun, Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, Jonagold, Crispin, Empire, Winesap, Fuji, Ida Red.

1335 White Hill Road, Yorktown Heights, N.Y. 10598

Terhune Orchards

This 200-acre farm, which also has a vineyard and winery, is run by 10th generation farmers. You can pick apples, and you can also taste wine inside a 150-year-old barn. Terhune Orchard’s website tells you tasting notes on all the apples, when they are in harvest and what to bake them with.

By public transit: About 1 hour 30 minutes. Take New Jersey Transit’s Northeast Corridor line to Princeton Junction, and then take an 18-minute taxi ride.

Apples: Pristine, Ginger Gold, Gala, Crab Apple, Empire, McIntosh, Jonathan, Honeycrisp, Cortland, Macoun, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Crimson Crisp, Crimson Topaz, Stayman Winesap, Granny Smith, Fuhi, Querina, Cameo, Pink Lady.

330 Cold Soil Road, Princeton, N.J. 08540

Source: https://brooklyneagle.com/articles/2019/09/17/go-apple-picking-near-nyc-without-a-car/

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