Northern Virginia Financial Initiative Reduces the Profitability of Money Laundering Through Increased Interagency Collaboration

As National Gratitude Month continues, the W/B HIDTA is grateful for its law enforcement partners at all levels—Federal, state, and local. Part of the W/B HIDTA’s mission is to promote partnerships and improve interagency collaboration. This week, we’re putting the spotlight on a multi-agency partnership that uses financial data to target money laundering operations.

The Northern Virginia Financial Initiative (NVFI) comprised of personnel from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), W/B HIDTA, the Metropolitan Washington Airport Police Department, and Virginia police departments representing Alexandria and Fairfax County, is an example of effective and successful interagency collaboration. It primarily investigates leads from Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs), which banks complete as part of their obligation under the Bank Secrecy Act. W/B HIDTA Deputy Director for Law Enforcement Gary Hartman related, “the NVFI is a win/win for all parties involved, and uses best practices for identifying, investigating, and dismantling/disrupting money laundering organizations.”

Steve Gurdak, the NVFI’s Initiative Manager, described the collaboration that HIDTAs facilitate as “invaluable.” A recent case success exemplifies the advantage of such collaboration. Earlier this year, Eberardo Medina was tried and convicted for trafficking cocaine and narcotics-related money laundering. Medina would ship the narcotics from California to New York, and traffic them to the Washington D.C. and Eastern Virginia areas. Medina also enlisted the help of several individuals to launder the money he made. He was later sentenced to 10 years in prison for trafficking kilograms of cocaine and laundering narcotics proceeds and payments.

Alexandria Police Department Detective Stacey Ivie, a senior investigator on the NVFI, described the Medina case as a “trifecta of law enforcement officers, case-specific task force officers, and the DEA” who utilized HIDTA resources to investigate the financial aspect of the case. She related, “This case actually highlights collaboration which the HIDTA is designed to facilitate.” Detective Ivie continued, “through the overall HIDTA mission, we were able to collaborate with another DEA-HIDTA group out on the West Coast, and that relationship of working with them was already built-in.”

Initiative Manager Gurdak stated, “We’ve had tremendous successes with joint cooperation.” He added that one of the NVFI’s sub-missions is to promote financial investigation literacy among HIDTA partners. Gurdak regularly leads financial investigation training, and has a webinar on the subject scheduled in the coming week.

On the importance of considering finances as an investigative strategy, Detective Ivie stated, “Money really is the motivation for committing a lot of these crimes, so we all think it’s extremely important to spend time on the finances because that is the very reason why people are committing so many of these crimes.”

The W/B HIDTA is thankful for the NVFI’s exemplary and innovative investigative approach, and for the successful interagency partnership facilitated by Initiative Manager Steve Gurdak, DEA Supervisory Special Agent Steve Diederich, and Alexandria Police Detective/Task Force Officer Stacey Ivie.

To learn more about W/B HIDTA Law Enforcement Initiatives, click here.