Saturday, May 30, 2015
The Dennis Hastert Scandal: What's It All About?
Like many of you, I am trying to get my arms around this Dennis Hastert scandal. The former speaker of the house has been indicted for structuring and lying to the FBI. And just what exactly is structuring, you ask?
I first became aware of it in the late 1980s when I was a DEA agent stationed in Pittsburgh. Essentially, every financial transaction carried out in the US over $10,000 must be reported to the IRS by the involved financial institution. It is called a Currency Transaction Report (CTR). That means if you walk into your bank, for example, and withdraw, deposit, or send any amount over $10,000, a CTR must be filled out and sent to the IRS. Not surprisingly, those involved in making transactions involving money connected to crime want to avoid that requirement. That has resulted over the years in persons involved in criminal activity, such as drug trafficking resorting to structuring. That is, they break their monies into several separate amounts under the reporting limits.
When I was in Pittsburgh in the late 1980s, I was involved in a case with the IRS that involved Lebanese heroin smugglers. The IRS had been tipped off that members of this group were driving from one bank to the next sending wire transfers to Lebanon of amounts of $9,500 or thereabouts. Often, they would go to the same bank on successive days. The banks, having been educated about this practice by the IRS, tipped them off. Subsequent surveillance was conducted and the suspects were observed as they made their transactions over a period of several weeks. Eventually, the group was tied to airport heroin seizures in other cities, a wiretap was installed, and a seizure in New York led directly to the group being rounded up and successfully prosecuted in New York (where one heroin seizure had been made).
So now we have Hastert making withdrawals of his own money from banks in amounts under $10,000. The FBI was alerted and when they asked Hastert about it, he lied saying that he didn't trust the banks.
It's also a crime to lie to a federal agent.
What Hastert wanted to conceal apparently was the fact that he was being blackmailed. It appears though not officially confirmed that Hastert was being blackmailed regarding an improper relationship he had with a male student back in his pre-political days when he was a high school wrestling coach in York, Illinois. Assuming that is the case involving the reason for his being blackmailed, (and the person in question was underage) the statute of limitations has surely expired.
So there you have it. Hastert was withdrawing his own money from the bank in "structured" amounts under the $10,000 amount apparently to pay off his blackmailer and avoid any CTR being sent to the IRS. In addition, he lied to the FBI about it. If all that is true, Hastert has committed two crimes. Of course, if the rumors about why he was being blackmailed are true, his reputation will be ruined as well-assuming the person in question was underage.
I just hope the feds didn't have too spend too many man-hours and resources cracking this case. Hastert is no longer in Congress though he is still a person of great influence. There may have originally been concerns about the potential for public corruption, but that is apparently not the case.
So what do you want to see happen to Mr Hastert now?