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Bank Secrecy Act
Anti-Money Laundering
Examination Manual

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Structuring transactions to evade BSA reporting and certain recordkeeping requirements can result in civil and criminal penalties under the BSA. Under the BSA (31 USC 5324), no person shall, for the purpose of evading the CTR or a geographic targeting order reporting requirement, or certain BSA recordkeeping requirements:

  • Cause or attempt to cause a bank to fail to file a CTR or a report required under a geographic targeting order or to maintain a record required under BSA regulations.
  • Cause or attempt to cause a bank to file a CTR or report required under a geographic targeting order, or to maintain a BSA record that contain a material omission or misstatement of fact.
  • Structure, as defined above, or attempt to structure or assist in structuring, any transaction with one or more banks.

The definition of structuring, as set forth in 31 CFR 1010.100 (xx) (which was implemented before a USA PATRIOT Act provision extended the prohibition on structuring to geographic targeting orders and BSA recordkeeping requirements), states, "a person structures a transaction if that person, acting alone, or in conjunction with, or on behalf of, other persons, conducts or attempts to conduct one or more transactions in currency in any amount, at one or more financial institutions, on one or more days, in any manner, for the purpose of evading the [CTR filing requirements]." "In any manner" includes, but is not limited to, breaking down a single currency sum exceeding $10,000 into smaller amounts that may be conducted as a series of transactions at or less than $10,000. The transactions need not exceed the $10,000 CTR filing threshold at any one bank on any single day in order to constitute structuring.

Money launderers and criminals have developed many ways to structure large amounts of currency to evade the CTR filing requirements. Unless currency is smuggled out of the United States or commingled with the deposits of an otherwise legitimate business, any money laundering scheme that begins with a need to convert the currency proceeds of criminal activity into more legitimate-looking forms of financial instruments, accounts, or investments, will likely involve some form of structuring. Structuring remains one of the most commonly reported suspected crimes on SARs.

Bank employees should be aware of and alert to structuring schemes. For example, a customer may structure currency deposit or withdrawal transactions, so that each is less than the $10,000 CTR filing threshold; use currency to purchase official bank checks, money orders, or traveler’s checks with currency in amounts less than $10,000 (and possibly in amounts less than the $3,000 recordkeeping threshold for the currency purchase of monetary instruments to avoid having to produce identification in the process); or exchange small bank notes for large ones in amounts less than $10,000.

However, two transactions slightly under the $10,000 threshold conducted days or weeks apart may not necessarily be structuring. For example, if a customer deposits $9,900 in currency on Monday and deposits $9,900 in currency on Wednesday, it should not be assumed that structuring has occurred. Instead, further review and research may be necessary to determine the nature of the transactions, prior account history, and other relevant customer information to assess whether the activity is suspicious. Even if structuring has not occurred, the bank should review the transactions for suspicious activity.

In addition, structuring may occur before a customer brings the funds to a bank. In these instances, a bank may be able to identify the aftermath of structuring. Deposits of monetary instruments that may have been purchased elsewhere might be structured to evade the CTR filing requirements or the recordkeeping requirements for the currency purchase of monetary instruments. These instruments are often numbered sequentially in groups totaling less than $10,000 or $3,000; bear the same handwriting (for the most part) and often the same small mark, stamp, or initials; or appear to have been purchased at numerous places on the same or different days.

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