Western Union Remission Fund distributes nearly $40M to victims
The Justice Department today announced that the Western Union Remission Fund began a distribution of approximately $40 million in funds forfeited to the United States from the Western Union Company to approximately 25,000 victims located in the United States and abroad. These victims stand to recover the full amount of their losses.
This is the first distribution in the second phase of the Western Union Remission distributions. The first phase of distributions paid more than $365 million to over 148,000 victims, all of whom received full compensation for their losses. The Justice Department anticipates authorizing more distributions for victims in the coming months.
The Justice Department continues to accept petitions for remission from those victimized by the scheme.
In 2017, Western Union entered into a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) with the United States. Pursuant to the DPA, Western Union acknowledged responsibility for its criminal conduct, which included violations of the Bank Secrecy Act and aiding and abetting wire fraud, and agreed to forfeit $586 million, which has been made available to compensate victims of the international consumer fraud scheme through the remission process. Western Union simultaneously resolved a parallel civil investigation with the Federal Trade Commission.
In this scheme, fraudsters targeted consumers, including seniors, through multiple scams. Three specific scams directed towards seniors include the grandparent scam, where the fraudster would pose as the victim’s relative in need of immediate money to avoid personal harm, lottery, or sweepstakes scams; where the fraudster would tell the victim that they had won a large cash prize but had to pay fees such as taxes to claim the prize; and romance scams, where the fraudster would pose as an online love interest and request funds for a visit or for another purpose.
In each of these scams, the fraudsters convinced their victims to send money through Western Union.
Certain owners, operators, or employees of Western Union agent locations were complicit in the schemes. Western Union aided and abetted the fraud scheme by failing to suspend or terminate complicit agents and by allowing them to continue to process fraud-induced monetary transactions. Western Union fulfilled its obligations under the DPA and the court granted the motion to dismiss the information.