Three Myths about Money Laundering Investigations

Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 8.28.51 PMEditor’s Note: This post was written by money laundering expert Jessica Herbert. Check out Jessica’s background and courses here.

Criminal investigators and analysts uncover the layers of criminal organizations with investigative techniques using data and information from several sources. For money laundering investigations, these sources can be a continuous trail of transactions connecting persons, businesses and countries.  This complexity can be intimidating and confusing, and the investigations lengthy. However, understanding basic elements of money laundering is critical to conducting comprehensive investigations. Here are three of the most serious myths that surround money laundering investigations. Take a look and see if you’ve encountered these myths in your department.


Myth: Criminals need bank accounts in order to launder money.

Fact: On a broad scope, money laundering is defined as the process where financial gains of criminal activity are made to appear legal.  A variety of financial tools and services can be used to move illicit funds through the economic system, such as gift cards, reloadable value cards or casino chips. Non-bank institutions, such as pawnbrokers, jewelry dealers, and casinos offer services to trade in goods and services.  Informal value transfer systems, also known as underground banking systems, also offer services to move finances around the globe.


Myth: Money laundering and terrorist financing is all the same.

Fact: The events of September 11, 2001, raised global awareness of both terms, which also caused some to think they are synonymous. Money laundering starts with criminal proceeds; terrorist financing may also start with criminal proceeds but also includes the legitimate funds obtained from charities, churches and businesses. Additionally, terrorist financing is defined by financial transactions that support the ideological purposes and actions of a defined terrorist group.

Numbers And Finance                                                                                                    Image by Flickr user Ken Teegardin

Myth: To investigate money laundering, I need to be an accountant.

Fact: While being an accountant could definitely help, investigating money laundering takes more than just understanding how to balance the books.  Investigators need to be aware of criminal enterprises and how these enterprises exploit economic systems to their advantage. Whether it is a narcotic or gambling operation, investigators identify the key persons and places involved. Arrests of individuals on these predicate offenses are great for departmental statistics. The primary goal of investigators should be to disrupt the financial supply chain of the criminal organization – dismantling the entire operation and recovering economic assets for their agency.


Audio: Tony Moreno on Gangs

Moreno-1In this short audio podcast, Featured Instructor Tony Moreno discusses his background, his time in the Los Angeles Police Department, and his connection to gangs. Moreno has been teaching about gangs in the US and abroad since 1982, and his investigative methods have influenced the operating procedures of a variety of local, national, and international organizations including the LAPD, the New Jersey Gang Investigators Association, and the International Latino Gang Association. If you are interested in learning more about Moreno, check out his website and take a look at his gang operations courses on Law Enforcement Learning.

Featured Instructor Interview: Nick Nicholson

Nicholson Group Logo 1This month’s Featured Instructor, the Nicholson Group, provides organizational development services to public and private sector law enforcement and security clients. In a few weeks, we’ll introduce the Group’s Assessing Your Personality, a course designed to help students better understand their own personality style, better recognize personality styles in others, and adapt their communication strategies appropriately. For law enforcement officers and investigators, developing this knowledge will increase success in interviews, field interactions, and with fellow officers.  We recently sat down with the principal of the Nicholson Group, Nick Nicholson, to discuss the course and how it fits on Law Enforcement Learning:

Law Enforcement Learning: Why do law enforcement officers need this course?

Nicholson: The ability to effectively communicate goes well beyond simple dialog or the ability to “read” the non-verbal aspects of communication associated with the day to day law enforcement activities. The DISC Personality Assessment tool provides a universal language of observable human behavior, or “how we act”. DISC does not measure education, experience, values or intelligence. It simply measures an individual’s behaviors, or how they communicate more effectively with others. With the knowledge of DISC, you can learn to understand and appreciate your behavior style, and then adapt your style in communication with others. In fact, you can change the golden rule. Rather than treating others as you would want to be treated, you can treat others the way they want to be treated.

The results of your DISC assessment will reveal your high and low placement in each of the four dimensions that make up your their unique natural and adapted behavioral styles.

Law Enforcement Learning: Why should they get this information from you?

Nicholson: The DISC assessment has become a popular means to help organizations improve communication among employees, first-line supervisors and senior leadership. I’ve administered over 2,500 assessments and provided feedback for improvement to dozens of organizations in both the private and public sectors. Past course evaluations are rated excellent and more importantly, this course encourage participants to take advantage of a 30 minute one-on-one consultation with the instructor during the course. During the consultation you have the opportunity to discuss any aspect of DISC and how you might better be able to apply the skills you learned during the course.

Law Enforcement Learning: If people are interested in this subject, where can they go for more?

Nicholson: Over the years continued research on DISC has produced a wide variety of products related to team building, performance assessment, senior leadership selection, sales and performance improvement. The Nicholson Group, LLC has worked closely with Select, Assess and Train, an organization specializing in assisting clients in selecting the right tool for the right application. For further information contact: Gail Houck here.

Assessing Your Personality will open soon in the Law Enforcement Learning marketplace – check back here or on Facebook, Google +, or Twitter for a launch announcement.

Big Changes Coming Soon to Law Enforcement Learning!

Over the past few months, we’ve received a great deal of feedback from instructors and students on site features and capabilities. In general, both groups want to ensure they can quickly and easily use the site to communicate with others, and each course’s internal message function has become the primary mechanism for most course-related communications. While the message function has worked well, the discussion board has not. We placed it on the course homepage so the discussion would always be present and accessible, but the design doesn’t seem to have impacted usage rates at all. In fact, it appears students and instructors have shied away from the discussion board, and they’ve done so precisely because of its location and design. It’s just too small and difficult to use.

Changes Coming to Law Enforcement LearningWe’ve recognized this, and are working on a few changes that should make it easier to have text-based discussions. To start, we’re removing the discussion board from the homepage and placing a ‘Questions’ box in it’s place. Students will be able to use the ‘Questions’ box to ask general course questions, and instructor answers will be accessible to everyone in the course. Next, we’re creating a new ‘Discussion Board’ content module that instructors will be able to employ as they create their syllabus. The module will join the other site content types – Video, Assignment, Quiz, eLearning, Document, Content – and will let instructors create and place specific discussion questions inside course blocks. Each discussion board will sit on its own page, which will eliminate the size issues with the current discussion board and make it easier for courses to conduct block-specific conversations.

In addition to the discussion board changes, we’re also working on a message update that will help keep instructors more aware of course issues. Right now, instructors only know about enrollments and student messages if they login to their course, and we’ve received multiple requests to add an external notification system. We’re doing just that, and the system will notify instructors via email when a) someone enrolls in their course and b) when someone sends them an in-course message. This new feature will help keep instructors connected to their courses without forcing them to login.

As we continue to add courses, instructors, and students, we’ll keep gathering feedback and improving Law Enforcement Learning. Through this set of updates, we hope to improve site-related communication, and believe that these updates will foster increased discussion board useage and smoother student-instructor interactions. If you have items you’d like changed or updated on the site, let us know. We’re working to build a responsive, effective learning community, and we’ll do our best to make it happen. Look for these updates over the next several weeks – we hope you find them useful.

The Law Enforcement Learning Team

Featured Instructor Interview – FORCE Concepts

PrintHappy New Year! As we move into 2014, we’re very excited to welcome Documenting Force, Law Enforcement’s premier use of force technical writing course, to Law Enforcement Learning. The course, which helps officers deliver comprehensive use of force reports that withstand scrutiny and limit litigation, employs case studies, exercises, and assignments to teach proven law enforcement writing skills. We recently sat down with the founder of FORCE Concepts, Jon Blum, to discuss the course:

Law Enforcement Learning: Why do law enforcement officers need this course?

Blum: In addition to being a critical piece of evidence in both criminal and civil trials, an officer’s report is also used internally to evaluate performance. Simply stated, this course helps officers explain their decision to use force and avoid both internal and external scrutiny.

 Law Enforcement Learning: Why should they get this information from you?

Blum: FORCE Concepts has been delivering Documenting Force for more than a decade. And if you are looking for report templates and examples to use in the field, this course stands alone. The curriculum is approved for POST credit in more than 20 states, with more on the way. Documenting Force is delivered using in-class, on-line, and mobile device platforms. In addition to providing expert witnesses testimony on behalf of officers in state and federal courts since 2001, FORCE Concepts instructors bring a one-of-a-kind combination of law enforcement, journalism, and technical writing expertise into the classroom. Last, but not least, the core concept behind Documenting Force is “less is more.” In other words, we train law enforcement professionals how to communicate their message using clear, concise and consistent language.

 Law Enforcement Learning: If people are interested in this subject, where can they go for more?

Blum: FORCE Concepts also delivers News Media Relations and basic Report Writing courses. We also offer a writing assessment unlike any other. In essence, the assessment quantifies individual powers of observation, recall, note taking and narrative compilation skills. It is being used by agencies as a recruiting tool and to evaluate in-service employees.

 Documenting Force will open later this month in the Law Enforcement Learning marketplace – check back here or on Facebook, Google +, or Twitter for a launch announcement.

The Law Enforcement Learning Team

Student Satisfaction & Distance Learning: Thoughts and Tips

Online LearnerStudent satisfaction is an important component of a successful distance learning experience, and you can increase student satisfaction with quality content, effective course design, and frequent interaction opportunities. This short post will offer some tips on how you can boost student satisfaction rates in your courses – doing so will increase the chances students recommend your course to others, and up the chances your students will sign up for more content in the future.

First, though, a tiny bit of research: Several authors, including DeBourgh (2003) and Wang (2003) have explored the concept of student satisfaction in distance learning. Generally, research on the subject suggests a correlation between satisfaction and effective pedagogy (DeBourgh, 2003) and also between satisfaction and reuse intention (Wang, 2003). In simple terms, these authors obtained evidence indicating students are (a) more satisfied with well-designed courses and (b) are more likely to reuse an online interface if they are satisfied with a course they completed. To come to his conclusions, DeBourgh obtained data from 43 students enrolled in a semester-long distance learning class. After analyzing the students’ survey responses, DeBourgh opined that the quality and effectiveness of the instructor and course content are the primary factors that are most responsible for student satisfaction in an online course.

While this seems obvious – good material + a good instructor = a good course – it is quite difficult to build and teach quality, effective distance learning content. Based on these results, here are a few tips you can use to improve your students’ satisfaction levels:

1. Develop Quality Content: For your Law Enforcement Learning courses, this really refers to image, video, and audio quality. As you are producing your own content and using your own equipment, you’re probably dealing with sound quality issues, video lighting snags, and searching for the best images to use in your courses. While you’re learning there is a bit of a learning curve associated with producing decent video and audio, take the time to do so. Better quality audio and video help students concentrate on the content, not the presentation, and positively impact satisfaction rates. If you’re struggling with sound or video quality, check out the How to Build a Law Enforcement Learning course and try some of our suggestions.

2. Pay Attention to Design: Distance learning courses are fundamentally different than in-person courses, and your course designs should reflect current cultural and educational trends. Video and short presentations are in, and lengthy documents are out. Determine what your audience needs and how they’d like it delivered, and design your course to account for specific content types. We can help with design, so let us know if you have issues and we’ll work with you to build an instructionally-sound, engaging class.

3. Interact Frequently with Students: In your classes, you can use synchronous video, asynchronous discussion boards, and individual or class messages to communicate with your students. Use these resources – you are the expert in your topic, and your students would love to interact with you. Set up times for video presentations, use the discussion board, and keep communicating. Your students will appreciate it, and your course will be better because of it.

These are just three of a huge list of ways you can increase student satisfaction with your courses. We’ve found, however, that these are the most obvious items that impact student experiences, so keep these in mind as you design and deliver your courses. Good luck, and let us know what we can do to help.

The Law Enforcement Learning Team

DeBourgh, G. (2003). Predictors of student satisfaction in distance-delivered graduate nursing courses: what matters most?, Journal of Professional Nursing, 19(3), 149-163.

Wang, Yi-Shun. (2003). Assessment of learner satisfaction with asynchronous electronic learning systems, Information & Management, 41(1), 75-86.

Featured Instructor Interview: Wesley Clark

We recently sat down with December’s Featured Instructor, Wesley Clark, to discuss his course and his thoughts on Cognitive Interviewing. When he’s not at Law Enforcement Learning, you can find him training, consulting, or tweeting at @WesClark. Here are some excerpts from our conversation:

Law Enforcement Learning: Tell us about your course:

Clark: Cognitive Interviewing is a highly researched and very effective method of investigative interviewing that has been shown to extract more accurate and more reliable information from victims and witnesses than traditional interviewing techniques. With faulty or inaccurate witnesses information being a contributing factor in 75% of wrongfully convicted people, it is important that we train our officers and investigators with the best and most reliable methods of obtaining information from people.

Law Enforcement Learning: Why do law enforcement & security professionals need this information?

Clark: First of all, interviewing is something investigators and police officers do every day. It is a skill that can and should be developed throughout an individual’s career. Secondly, physical evidence, DNA, fingerprints and such are great for an investigator to have during an investigation, but not all cases have such physical evidence, and some have little or no available evidence. However, every case that is investigated contains information from people; whether it is information from the victim or complainant, witnesses, an informant or possible suspects. Effective interviewing sets the foundation for a successful investigation by obtaining accurate, reliable information from people just as improper interviewing sets the foundation for failure.

Law Enforcement Learning: Why should they get this information from you?

Clark: I retired in 2009 as a Sergeant after 23 years with the Connecticut State Police Department where I served most of my time within the Major Crime Squad as a Detective and Supervisor. I have used these techniques successfully during my career and I currently teach agencies throughout the United States Cognitive Interviewing and other techniques designed to reach the truth during investigative inquiries.

Law Enforcement Learning: If people are interested in this subject, where can they go for more?

Clark: They can contact me through my company, LIES, LLC Linguistic Interrogation Expert Services at or email me at

If you are interested in improving your interview skills and increasing your capability to detect the truth, check out Clark’s Cognitive Interviewing – it starts soon!