Used cars, drug dealers and money laundering

If you have to search for a salesperson on a used car lot, a mental trigger should go off that something is amiss

Ever wondered where the all the salespeople were on a used car lot? No, this is not the beginning of an elaborate 800-word joke. Thanks to ultra-cheesy television commercials, the used car salesman inhabits a dark and dirty place in American hearts. When we visit a used car lot, we expect the rigmarole, and even plan for it. That’s why, if you have to find a salesperson to show you a vehicle, a mental trigger should go off that something is amiss.

And it just might be money laundering — a crime happening almost daily in the United States. If you pay attention to the news, you know that used car lots have now emerged as one of America’s most popular money washing venues. In a typical scenario, a criminal approaches a car dealer and offers to provide the cash to purchase vehicles, typically at a price above the sticker so the dealer can cash in, too.

This type of money laundering chain is complicated and relies on trust. That is a big ask in any criminal activity, particularly in the car business. The majority of used car lot owners are simply not financially or criminally savvy enough to generate much profit from these associations, and as a result, they end up taking a fall for some measly scraps. Here is a quick round-up of the worst money laundering cases involving used car dealers:

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Richard Paxton

CEO of the Alacer Group. Sharing the latest news in financial crimes and best practices that enable financial institutions to prevent money laundering.




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