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Statement by Assistant Director in Charge Pat D’Amuro at the Press Conference Concerning the Arrests Made in “Operation Wooden Nickel”

Washington, D.C. November 19, 2003
  • FBI National Press Office (202) 324-3691

Beginning late yesterday afternoon, through last evening, and again early this morning, in excess of 200 FBI agents executed arrest warrants and search warrants in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Florida, Tennessee and Colorado in connection with “Operation Wooden Nickel” – the most significant law enforcement investigation ever of criminal activity within the Foreign Currency Exchange markets.

This investigation was conducted over the past year-and-a-half employing a variety of investigative techniques to include extensive reviews and analysis of records, electronic surveillance and – most importantly – an undercover FBI agent who had been accepted by the defendants as a full partner in their schemes.

As a trusted business associate of the defendants, the undercover FBI agent learned that many of the fraudulent activities in the foreign currency exchange markets outlined in the court papers had been ongoing for the past 20 years. In fact, several defendants boasted to the Agent that there was no fear of ever having to stop their schemes and frauds because law enforcement would never be capable of getting close enough to stop them.

The undercover FBI agent provided us – quite literally – with an inside look into the many methods by which the foreign currency exchange markets can be manipulated and used by those who seek to profit by illegal means.

The work of the undercover agent and the entire investigative team revealed that these defendants defrauded individual investors, ripped off financial institutions, rigged foreign currency trades and engaged in numerous other forms of criminal activity.

Many of those defendants were arrested last evening at 2 World Financial Center as they gathered for drinks and what they thought was going to be the beginning of a gambling junket to Atlantic City. In fact, they lost their gamble before they ever got there.

The FBI in New York has a vigorous white-collar crime program staffed by highly trained and motivated agents just like those who conducted this investigation – and just like the FBI agent who went undercover to help expose these crimes. The goal - to insure the integrity of our financial markets. The public must have confidence that the markets are free of undue influence and that those who work there, play by the rules.

Consistent with one of the basic rules of the marketplace – Let the Buyer Beware — the FBI’s message to those who seek to manipulate our markets and defraud investors is simple - BEWARE - that person you are conspiring with may very well be an undercover agent or an individual who is cooperating with the FBI.

Finally, let me say that the cooperation we received from those financial institutions which fell victim to the fraudulent activities of these defendants was of great value to the investigation and I thank them.

I would like to thank the Commodities Futures Trading Commission and the United States Securities and Exchange Commission for their assistance in this operation.

Thanks also go to the staff of the United States Attorney’s Office for all its hard work throughout the investigation.

I would also like to express my appreciation to FBI Supervisory Special Agent Patrick Carroll and Agents Lawrence Ferazani and Timothy Bell and all the members of our Securities Fraud Squad for their professionalism and perseverance throughout this complex investigation.

Finally, to the FBI agent who played such a critical role in this case by working in an undercover capacity, I thank you and your family for your dedication, sacrifice, and commitment to the cause.