An Alabama convenience store owner (of Maldi Ma Inc dba Palmer’s Quick Stop) has requested a jury trial in the civil action for forfeiture in rem against his defendant property, approximately $107,000, seized from his business account. The US Secret Service accuses the owner of the store, Vijaykuma Patel, of structuring business deposits to influence, or attempt to influence, the the bank to avoid filing Currency Transaction Reports (CTR) required by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). The complaint for in rem forfeiture notes that the seized currency was not part of the alleged structuring but from the same bank account where Mr. Patel made 125 deposits, over 225 days or 154 bank days, totaling $1,494,250 in deposits. A bank must file a CTR for “each transaction in currency (deposit, withdrawal, exchange, or other payment or transfer) of more than $10,000 by, through, or to the bank.”
However, any attempt (involving any amount of money) to avoid the filing of any required financial report can lead to the forfeiture of an individual’s property. Transactions for more than $3,000 are identified and tracked by an individual’s name and identifying numbers. Making deposits between $3,000 and $10,000 is an ineffectual method to launder, or hide, funds. Transactions for less than $3,000 are scrutinized for patterns of structuring deposits to avoid the $3,000 identification threshold, as well.
Mr. Patel’s 125 deposits were primarily made in amounts between $3,000 and $10,000. The deposits were primarily made within minutes of one another, at the same bank, through the same teller. Mr Patel noted in a judicial conference,
the multiple cash deposits were presented in a single transaction at the
teller’s window. The times when the deposits were made shows that in every instance the
cash deposits were recorded as being made simultaneously or within a minute or two of
each other – about the time it would take a teller to count and receipt the money. The
Tillman’s Corner branch of Century Bank is a small office with only a few employees.
Branch personnel were well aware that two or occasionally three tranches of cash were
being tendered together for deposit by a single customer at the same time for deposit into
a single account.
Maldi Ma, Inc. did not attempted to conceal the fact that the cash deposits were
related or attempted to frustrate the bank in its duty to report the multiple cash
The Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) instructs that ”[m]ultiple currency transactions totaling more than $10,000 during any one business day are treated as a single transaction if the bank has knowledge that they are by or on behalf of the same person. Transactions throughout the bank should be aggregated when determining multiple transactions.”
Approximately 80% of the instances in which Mr. Patel made a deposit totaled more than $10,000. Thus, the bank was legally required to file a CTR on Mr. Patel’s deposits for approximately 80% of the deposit occasions. All of the listed deposits are in excess of $3,000 and thus would have triggered some reporting-tracked to Mr. Patel. Those reports would have defeated any attempt to “hide” money in his bank account.
The court documents do not specify why, exactly, Mr. Patel presented the deposits in the amounts that he did. However, the store sells gasoline and Mr. Patel’s contracts for gasoline require funds to be electronically remitted from the business account which may have required deposits aside from receipts. Additionally, many business owners like to make deposits in specific amounts to designate, or track, deposits for accounting purposes.
The complaint is silent on whether the bank neglected to file the required CTRs. Apparently, bank customers should demand that banks file CTRs every time they make any financial transaction if they hope to avoid the forfeiture of their money. There is danger in failing to make deposits, too. Government agents routinely seize and initiate the forfeiture of bulk cash-without evidence of wrong doing.
A search of court records indicates that there are no charges against Mr. Patel himself.