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Treasury chooses Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Blanco to lead FinCEN

Blanco currently leads DOJ’s criminal division

The Department of the Treasury announced Wednesday that it chose Kenneth Blanco to lead the department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, which is a part of the Treasury’s Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence and targets financial crimes including money laundering.

Blanco is currently the Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Department of Justice’s criminal division.

Blanco was appointed to the position of Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Criminal Division in April 2008. In his time with the DOJ’s criminal division, Blanco has overseen several of its sections, including the Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section, the Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section, the Organized Crime and Gang Section, and the Child Exploitation Section.

Blanco also supervised many of the Criminal Division’s “most significant” national and international investigations into illicit finance, money laundering, Bank Secrecy Act, and sanctions violations, including investigations of global financial institutions and money services businesses, the Treasury Department said in a release.

Blanco came to the Justice Department nearly 20 years ago as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of Florida.

“Ken Blanco is an important addition at Treasury, and will focus on combating money laundering and illicit threats by those who seek to abuse our financial system,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. “His extensive background in law enforcement will be a strong asset to our TFI team.”

Now, Blanco is set to take over at FinCEN, which has an ongoing investigation into foreign buyers using shell companies to buy luxury U.S. real estate in order to launder money.

Last year, the FinCEN launched an investigation into unknown buyers using shell companies to buy high-end real estate in Manhattan and Miami-Dade County, because it was “concerned about illicit money” being used in the deals.

The results of that initial investigation showed more than 25% of transactions covered in the initial inquiry involved a “beneficial owner” who is also the subject of a “suspicious activity report,” which is an indication of possible criminal activity.

The initial investigation led FinCEN to expand the investigation to include all of New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco and several other areas.

Earlier this year, FinCEN said that it planned to continue the investigation past its initial end date because of the number of questionable transactions reported to the agency.

Blanco will now oversee that investigation, along with the rest of FinCEN’s activities once he transitions into the role in the next month.

“I worked with Ken at the Department of Justice and know that he will be a tremendous leader for FinCEN,” Treasury Under Secretary Sigal Mandelker said.

“He has worked closely with many in TFI for years and his long standing relationships within Treasury and across the law enforcement community will be invaluable to our mission to combat illicit finance and safeguard the financial system,” Mandelker said. “Ken will work closely with Treasury component offices to maximize our authorities and effectiveness. I would also like to thank Jamal El-Hindi for his leadership as Acting Director during this interim period.”

Blanco said that he is looking forward to leading FinCEN.

“I am excited to take my 28 years of prosecutorial experience with me to FinCEN, and to join a fabulous team at Treasury,” Blanco said.

“TFI is dedicated to protecting the American people and securing the integrity of our financial system from bad actors who commit acts of terror or other crimes against our nation,” Blanco added. “I look forward to working with others across law enforcement and the private sector in this important endeavor. I am grateful to the Department of Justice, and my dedicated colleagues there, for the wonderful career I have enjoyed over the last two decades. It has been an honor and a privilege to serve with them.”

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