The DA's office, Brownsville Police and Harlingen PD received over $2.2 million in August from the Southwest Border Anti-Money-Laundering Alliance to specifically combat money laundering across the US - Mexico border.Mixed feelings: On one hand, the "eat what you kill" funding structure where supposedly the task force will operate "without costs to taxpayers" because of seizures amounts to wishful thinking, at best. None of Texas regional drug task forces - including those along the border - could survive under that model. And that approach forces them to focus more on intercepting short-term money transports, which fails to get at the money laundered through local businesses or purchase of legitimate Mexican commodities like fruits and vegetables, etc..
The money will be used to jumpstart a new taskforce in Cameron County called the Financial Asset Seizure Team or FAST.
“The old method was just cold hard cash surreptitiously being taken back to Mexico. Obviously with the law enforcement as keen as it is, they were apprehending a lot of those loads going south. So they figured out a different way to do I, that’s with money cards, other related matters -- money order, money transfers, and the like,” said Cameron County District Attorney Saenz.
While grant money will be used to activate the taskforce, money seized as a result of illegal smuggling investigations is what will fund it.
That means FAST will operate without additional costs to the taxpayer.
The team will consist of 19 members who will work alongside federal partners like the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the DEA.
OTOH, as Grits has previously noted, Texas law enforcement barely focuses on money laundering beyond this constant search for south-bound mules carrying cash that will get them some quick forfeiture income. If Cameron County's new task force focuses on actual money laundering by banks and businesses in the Valley, and does it in a serious, concerted way, that could get interesting pretty quickly. From the press account it sounds like they'll be pleased as punch to chase mules, thank you, but you never know.