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Chairman ST GERMAIN. Are you telling us that the bank increased the amount of the money order that you could purchase?
Mr. FRIEDBERG. Yes, sir. Originally, I remember that they were $2,000. They went to $5,000 and AmeriFirst banks of Miami now sell money orders up to $10,000.
Chairman ST GERMAIN. What bank was that?
Mr. FRIEDBERG. The turnaround time from what I gather when some of these checks were subpoenaed, the turnaround time could be as high as 60 to 90 days and they get $5 for purchasing the money order and then 60 or 90 days turnaround time from the time they sell it until the time they have to pay on it. Chairman ST GERMAIN. Mr. Wylie.
Mr. WYLIE. Let me say, Mr. Friedberg, that you are a very unusual witness. It looks like you are in the position to help us get some information that this committee needs.
Mr. Bandstra, is Mr. Friedberg giving us good information? Mr. BANDSTRA. Yes, Mr. Wylie. Everything that Mr. Friedberg is telling you has been corroborated by agents of both the Internal Revenue Service and the Customs Service. As Mr. Friedberg said, at one point he came to Federal agencies—first the FBI and then the Customs Service-and reported back-after that point reported back to Federal agencies on a daily basis.
The copies of many of the cashier's checks and money orders which were purchased were turned in and are now evidence and have been evidence in cases that have been presented already in the southern district of Florida.
I would only like to clarify one thing, and that is that Mr. Friedberg said he began working for the United States laundering money. I think it is clear to the committee that he was not laundering money for the U.S. Government. Mr. WYLIE. I would hope not. (Laughter.] Mr. WYLIE. You were employed by Mr. Behar? Mr. FRIEDBERG. Yes, sir. Mr. WYLIE. How were you paid? Mr. FRIEDBERG. Mr. Behar, starting in June-just at the same time I started working for the Government-started to pay 1 percent commission. It was my understanding Mr. Behar was collecting 4 percent on the money and paying 1 percent.
Mr. WYLIE. So if you-how much money could you launder in a day?
Mr. FRIEDBERG. $100,000 a day.
Mr. WYLIE. Less expenses. You had to take care of them out of your own pocket?
Mr. FRIEDBERG. Correct.
Mr. FRIEDBERG. It is my understanding that Mr. Behar has been sentenced. I do not know if Mr. Behar is presently-
Mr. BANDSTRA. Mr. Wylie, Mr. Behar was indicted in four separate indictments in the southern district of Florida because he was involved in four separate conspiracies. He has plead guilty in each of those cases and has now been sentenced by all four Federal district court judges. And it was my understanding that he either was to report to the Federal Bureau of Prisons this week or next week.
Mr. WYLIE. What was he charged with?
Mr. BANDSTRA. He was charged with conspiracy to defraud an agency of the United States, the Internal Revenue Service. Mr. WYLIE. Tax evasion?
Mr. BANDSTRA. It was not tax evasion. He has a problem with the Internal Revenue Service that has not yet been worked out. But he was actually charged with a violation of title 18, conspiracy to de fraud an agency of the United States.
Mr. WYLIE. Is it usual for a Smurf to take the money and run or are Smurfs part of an organized crime effort? Just how does the Smurf get into this kind of operation? I understand how you got into it.
Mr. FRIEDBERG. First, I found it was very unusual for an American to be involved in it. Again, my only contact in the Miami area, most of them were Latin, Colombians. And to let an American handle their money was unheard of.
Most of the Colombians I had come in contact with, through working, nobody ever ran. They could probably make more money on a Smurfing basis than just taking whatever they were given.
Also, I was given larger sums of money than the average Smurf would take in a day, I would imagine. Except for Mr. Behar's close associates, most of them that I have met will tell you they get $50,000 or $60,000 a day. And that's 5 days work or 2 weeks work, I would say. They would be better off keeping Smurfing than run with the $50,000 or $60,000.
Mr. WYLIE. So they are usually a part of an organized crime effort, Mr. Bandstra?
Mr. BANDSTRA. In the sense that this is very much an organization. I think it is also clear, from Mr Friedberg's testimony, they were talking about individuals who are at various levels in a money laundering organization. There is a person at the top, who in this case was identified as "Alex,” who was in Colombia and who presumably has contacts in Columbia with persons who are either directly supplying cocaine into the United States or is somehow involved with the supply of that cocaine into the United States.
Then there are persons in the United States, such as Mr. Behar, who might be considered as money exchangers for a drug smuggler in Colombia. Mr. Behar was one of the persons that Mr. Friedberg worked for. He also had contacts with other such money exchangers who were also indicted in the southern district.
On the bottom level of this three-tiered money laundering scheme would be the Smurf, the person who is referred to as a Smurf, and those are the persons actually running to the banks to do these deliveries. The whole purpose, of course, is to get the money usually outside the United States. There are times when money is deposited in the United States, or investments are made
in the United States, but ordinarily this money is taken in the form of these negotiable instruments outside the United States.
Mr. WYLIE. Did these institutions ever ask you for any identification?
Mr. FRIEDBERG. In Miami, yes, sir. In California, no, sir.
Mr. FRIEDBERG. No, sir; the only problem I ran into in California was this was 1984. It was in May 1984, just prior to the Olympics, and the only concern one bank showed was that there was possibly counterfeit money there. So the entire $9,000 was put through a counterfeit checking machine. That was the only problem we ran into. It slowed me down for about 25 minutes.
Mr. WYLIE. Thank you, Mr. Friedberg.
Chairman ST GERMAIN. Laundering $100,000 a day, you must have had to run.
Mr. FRIEDBERG. I gained weight since I stopped, sir. Chairman ST GERMAIN. Mr. Barnard. Mr. Barnard is quite a runner. If you have noticed, he is nice and slim. He runs every day.
Mr. BARNARD. I never made that much money running, though, Mr. Friedberg.
Mr. Friedberg, were your instructions very general, that you just were supposed to go to banks, or did you have-were you instructed to take advantage of money exchanges or any other type of operation?
Mr. FRIEDBERG. No, sir; strictly banks.
Mr. BARNARD. Strictly banks. Did any of your transactions take the form of buying travelers checks?
Mr. FRIEDBERG. No, sir.
Mr. BARNARD. I see. And as you said, as you listed the various banks in California with only Florida identification, you never confronted any question about your purchasing of cashier's checks?
Mr. FRIEDBERG. None whatsoever. The entire $200,000 was accomplished in a day and a half. Just for the record, neither one of us-Mr. Yuribi, who was with me, and whose command of the english language is very poor-we had no idea where we were.
Part of the story, I think, is very interesting. We landed at the airport and we leased a car and it was at night. We were pulling out of the airport and at the car leasing agency, we asked where are there a lot of banks. He said, “What do you mean?” I said what neighborhood, a nice neighborhood where there are just banks. So he said, “Why do you not try Wilshire Boulevard. "
Now you have to remember we have no idea where we are. We are two Floridians, this is about 9 or 10 at night. We are in a strange town on the other side of the country, and we drove to Wilshire Boulevard. We found a motel. This was on a Saturday. We checked into the motel.
Chairman ST GERMAIN. What name did you use on the car or the motel?
Mr. FRIEDBERG. Our name, sir.
We subsequently have gone out to California and it was also corroborated that the hotel was registered in the name of Mr. Yuribi. He used his credit card. The car was rented in my name because I was the driver and Mr. Yuribi was frightened to death to drive on California roads. [Laughter.]
Another interesting story, Mr. Bandstra just reminded me, when we made this contact, we went out to Palos Verde, if you are familiar with the area, it is a very, very high rent neighborhood.
Chairman ST GERMAIN. I know no more about that area than you knew about Wilshire Boulevard.
Mr. FRIEDBERG. Well, I can tell you this, it overlooks the Pacific Ocean and it is magnificent. We went into this beautiful house and you can see from the front door right out through the back window. The reason you could was all there was mattresses on the floor. There were no furnishings, there were sheets over the windows.
He mentioned he was paying $2,500 a month rent for this house. The money was laid out on a dining room type table with a couple of chairs around it.
Other than having a gymnasium in the basement where he worked out, that is all there was in this house in Palos Verde.
Mr. BARNARD. Did he have any money under those mattresses?
Mr. FRIEDBERG. I didn't check, sir. We were there a week late. Had we come a week earlier, he would have had the full $400,000.
But one of the points that was made, I think was very interesting, that he never asked for any identification. He had never saw us before in his life, and he turned over $200,000 to us.
Mr. BARNARD. So Mr. Friedberg, when you got back to Florida, after that trip, then you were ready to read the newspaper, right?
Mr. FRIEDBERG. No, sir; I was ready to resign because nothing was right on that trip, at all. I realized that, at this point, some thing was wrong. The demeanor of the gentleman that we picked up
the money from, he had another associate with him. There were two people really involved, and some of the comments Mr. Yuribi made.
It was the first opportunity I had to be alone with Mr. Yuribi, who was Mr. Behar's associate. We shared a room together for Saturday night, Sunday night, and Monday night. I learned an awful lot.
Then, of course, the newspaper corroborated what I had learned.
Mr. BARNARD. I am going to ask you an embarrassing question and that is did you file an income tax return for the money that you earned?
Mr. FRIEDBERG. Absolutely, sir.
Mr. FRIEDBERG. I think I put down money laundering, sir. [Laughter.]
Mr. BARNARD. You did? You put that on the IRS form?
Mr. FRIEDBERG. No; it was done under the auspices--you have to remember I was working for the IRS.
Mr. BARNARD. That is right, you started in January.
Mr. BARNARD. I am not surprised.
Mr. FRIEDBERG. By the way, just for the record, Mr. Barnard, everything I earned was turned over to the Government.
Mr. BARNARD. Oh, I see.
Mr. BARNARD. One further question-I think my time is about up.
Did you develop any friendships, any acquaintances, with these other members or other people who were helping whatever his name was?
Mr. FRIEDBERG. Mr. Behar?
Mr. BARNARD. Yes; but you all had a little team going there, so I didn't-did you-
Mr. FRIEDBERG. One of the problems was that I was an outsider. I was an American and they were all Latins and there was—as a matter of fact, we did socialize to the extent that we would have lunches together and things like that.
Mr. BARNARD. But you did know one another?
Mr. BANDSTRA. I believe it is 28 persons, Mr. Barnard, 28 persons out of this entire scheme being operated by Mr. Behar were indicted. I believe 26 of those or 25 of those have now either plead guilty or have been convicted.
Mr. BARNARD. But Mr. Friedberg was the only innocent victim there? I mean, the rest of them knew what they were doing?
Mr. BANDSTRA. Yes.
Chairman ST GERMAIN. Tell me something. This warehouse, did it have a security force around it?
Mr. FRIEDBERG. None whatsoever.
Chairman ST GERMAIN. Really? Because you know, I have read some of the stories about the shoot-outs they have. They have got sophisticated weapons and all.
Mr. BARNARD. You have been watching too much "Miami Vice." (Laughter.]
Mr. FRIEDBERG. The only security Mr. Behar had, he had a metal door which you raise up and down. When a money delivery was made he would raise the door, the car would pull in, and then close the door behind them. There were never any weapons or anything of that nature.
People delivering the money would wait until the money was counted and then they would leave. Then Mr. Behar would divide the money up. Usually, within 2 to 3 hours, everything was gone from the warehouse, dollar-wise, it was all split up. The following day it was brought back in the form of checks.
Chairman ST GERMAIN. Prior to your trip to California you did, on a given day, launder $100,000?
Mr. FRIEDBERG. No, sir. Prior to that, Mr. Behar's business was very small. Mr. Behar and Mr. Yuribi and Mrs. Behar were all