At 8:50 a.m. on March 15, 2006, Luis Saavedra and Carlos Roca began going from bank to bank in Queens, New York, depositing cash into accounts held by a network of other people, according to law-enforcement officials. Their deposits never exceeded $2,000. Most ranged from $500 to $1,500.
Around lunchtime, they crossed into Manhattan and worked their way up Third Avenue, then visited two banks on Madison Avenue. By 2:52 p.m., they had placed more than $111,000 into 112 accounts, say the officials, who reconstructed their movements from seized deposit slips.
That's right: they made deposits into 112 different accounts in six hours. And when they were caught shortly after this spree, they still had $283,000 in cash left to deposit.
Obviously, all banks have software that is designed to detect suspicious transactions, and it is possible for this software to be modified so that these kinds of microtransactions are detected. The problem, as with any security measure, is the risk of false positives. If the software is too sensitive, too many legitimate transactions will be flagged, resulting either in the banks being unable to give the proper attention to the ones that really are sinister or in honest customers being harassed. And, of course, that's exactly what the people who designed this particular money laundering scheme were trying to do. I deplore what they're doing, of course, but I respect their ingenuity.