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  • The San Juan Daily Star

Co-ops join with feds in effort to curb bank fraud


By THE STAR STAFF


The Corporation for the Supervision and Insurance of Cooperatives of Puerto Rico (COSSEC by its Spanish acronym) has joined federal efforts to end bank fraud.


COSSEC gathered the boards of directors of cooperatives or credit unions in Puerto Rico to review the regulations, responsibilities of the cooperative sector, and the tools available to investigate criminal actions.


The head of the federal prosecutor’s office in Puerto Rico, Stephen Muldrow, agents from the Internal Revenue Service and FBI agents were at the meeting.


The federal agencies agreed that the cooperative sector is active in detecting suspicious actions in banking procedures with the Suspicious Actions Report (SARs). The tool is often the starting point for research.


“The more trained the personnel in the cooperatives are, the greater the compliance with the regulations and applicable laws in banking. Therefore, we will be able to contribute with greater diligence to federal agencies in detecting illegal transactions,” COSSEC President Mabel Jiménez Miranda said in a statement Sunday. “Furthermore, generating more reports of suspicious activities in the cooperatives will allow us to pay for our compliance program.”


The head of the federal prosecutor’s office called on the banking institutions to remain vigilant and collaborate with his agency to identify criminal actions on the island.


SARs are the reports that financial institutions are required by law to submit to FinCen when they find an unusual action by one of the customers. The report, once completed, is maintained in an electronic database by the Detroit Computer Center.


The SAR helps federal agencies identify money laundering, which aims to use cash in the regular economy without its true source being detected. Money laundering aims to hide some illegal activity that generates large amounts of money, such as drug trafficking, tax evasion and mortgage fraud on credit cards or bank accounts, among others.


“The compliance officer of cooperatives plays an important role in fraud cases in cooperatives because he is the person called to report, through SARs, any suspicious actions to the federal agencies that investigate this type of case,” Jiménez Miranda. “Therefore, we will continue training cooperative staff to detect suspicious transactions effectively.”

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