by: Robert Rutkowski
When a person acts as a middleman for a con artist or grifter, plays stupid when the police get involved and then avoids prosecution because of lack of intent, it makes me crazy. To me this middleman, or mule, is essentially acting the same as someone driving the getaway car in a robbery. It bothers me so much, I made a video on how to spot mules a couple of years ago. Some of these people even avoid civil liability via bankruptcy!
So when I saw this Wired article yesterday, I was thrilled! The article says that this may be one of the first cases against mules despite the fact that mules are involved in hundreds of millions of dollars of fraud every year. In this particular case, it’s alleged that money was stolen from a third party’s account and then funnelled through the mules accounts to launder it. Usually what happens with respect to credit unions is that the mule presents a bogus instrument across the teller line and then tries to quickly wire out fund or get a credit union teller check issued to a third party who absconds with the money. The mule is almost always left behind to face a civil suit by the credit union but can avoid paying by filing bankruptcy: again claiming that the theft should be dischargeable because the mule did not intend to steal the money.
I am very hopeful that jurisdictions across the country start to follow California’s lead and seriously question a mule’s claim that he or she had no idea that the underlying activity was fraudulent. In 2010, this should not be a valid defense. Being paid to cash checks for another person is not a legitimate business activity!