Treasury Taps Justice Lawyer to Lead Financial Crimes Office

By Jeff Bater, Bloomberg BNA

A longtime criminal prosecutor at the Justice Department (DOJ) has been tapped to lead a Treasury Department unit that fights money laundering and other financial crimes.

Kenneth Blanco was named director of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), a bureau in Treasury’s Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence (TFI), the department announced Nov. 8.

Blanco is expected to move into his new position in the next month from his current role as acting assistant attorney general of the DOJ’s Criminal Division. He replaces Jamal El-Hindi, who has served as acting FinCEN director since 2016.

Extensive Experience

Blanco’s nearly 20 years at DOJ is seen as valuable in the fight against illicit finance. “His extensive background in law enforcement will be a strong asset to our TFI team,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a news release.

FinCEN analyzes financial transactions to detect financial crimes such as money laundering and serves as a conduit between banks and law enforcement. El-Hindi, testifying on Capitol Hill last April, said the Treasury unit was focusing on three areas in the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing: real estate, virtual currency, and cybersecurity.

Sigal Mandelker, Treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, told a House panel Nov. 8 FinCEN is focused on emerging technologies and trends such as cryptocurrency.

“FinCEN continues to promote transparency and accountability in the U.S. and international financial systems by focusing on preventing money laundering and illicit financing in new sectors and through new pathways,” Mandelker said in remarks for the House Financial Services Committee Subcommittee on Terrorism and Illicit Finance.

Longstanding Relationships

In the Treasury announcement, Mandelker said Blanco has worked closely with the TFI for years, and praised his longstanding relationships within Treasury and across the law enforcement community.

Blanco was appointed deputy assistant attorney general of DOJ’s Criminal Division in April 2008. He oversaw its money laundering and asset recovery section, the narcotic and dangerous drug section, the organized crime and gang section, and the child exploitation section.

Treasury’s announcement said Blanco supervised many of the Criminal Division’s most significant national and international investigations into illicit finance, money laundering, Bank Secrecy Act, and sanctions violations, including investigations of global financial institutions and money services businesses.

Prior to joining DOJ, Blanco worked in south Florida at the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office. He has a Juris Doctor degree from the Georgetown University Law Center, where he currently teaches as an adjunct professor of law.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jeff Bater in Washington at jbater@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Ferullo at MFerullo@bna.com