Ping Express – a Texas payments company that transferred millions of dollars from the U.S. to Africa on behalf of its clients – plead guilty to failure to prevent money laundering relating to approximately $167 million in money transfers. Ping Express established internal controls designed to cap transactions in excess of certain amounts, although it failed to do so for more than 1,500 customers. It also failed to investigate and report these suspicious transactions to regulators as required. Further, Ping Express conducted money transfer businesses in states in which it was not licensed to do so. These states included Nevada, New Jersey, Utah, West Virginia, and Connecticut. Ping Express claimed to have software that could detect and deter transactions initiated from states where the company was not licensed, but in reality the software wasn’t functional. Ping CEO Anslem Oshionebo and Ping COO Opeyemi Odeyale also pleaded guilty to failure to maintain an effective anti-money laundering program. Ping’s IT/ Business Development Manager, Aleoghena Okhumale, pleaded guilty to knowingly transmitting illegally-derived funds. The CEO and COO were recently each sentenced to 27 months in federal prison, while the IT/Business Development Manager received a prison sentence of 42 months.
Why this is important. This payments company knowingly failed to follow its internal procedures, implement systems designed to ensure that it remained compliant with its licensing status, and file suspicious transaction reports – all of which are avoidable with the right systems. It also highlights both the continued regulatory focus on non-bank financial institutions like payment companies, and the fact that individuals will be held personally liable for AML failures of the companies for which they work.