On the wall of his Brickell Avenue offices, Charles A. Intriago keeps a framed copy of a marketing study he commissioned in 1989 to explore the prospects for a newsletter about money laundering. The expert’s recommendation: The prospects for such a venture would be dismal.
Intriago, a former federal prosecutor with an entrepreneurial spirit and a knack for spotting trends, forged ahead anyway. The result was Money Laundering Alert. It blossomed into a lucrative business, including seminars and conferences, and established him as a nationally recognized expert on money laundering and financial crime. His wife, Joy Meason Intriago, a certified public account, came up with the idea of developing certification programs for professionals.
In December 2006, Intriago sold the business, Alert Global Media, to an arm of private-equity giant Warburg Pincus, and he left the firm in March 2008.
Later that year, he launched a new venture devoted to the topic of asset recovery and similarly began publishing news on issues and trends, hosting conferences and providing certification for professionals who master the material.
The level of asset recovery in financial crimes, says Intriago, is “pretty pathetic.”
“If you’re a financial criminal, the likelihood is when you get out of prison, you’re going to have your money where you left it. It does little good to send a guy to jail, or limited good. Get the money back.”
In 2010, Intriago branched out again to focus on issues and trends in the area of e-discovery, which is pushing lawyers away from their beloved mountains of paper files to electronically stored information.
When his non-compete restrictions on money-laundering conferences and certification expired in 2011, Intriago expanded his focus beyond asset recovery to encompass topics of financial crime in general under the Association of Certified Financial Crime Specialists.
His next big event, the International Financial Crime Conference and Exhibition, set for May 15 at the Westin Diplomat in Hollywood, includes a roster of speakers including Paul E. Pelletier, former deputy chief of the fraud section at the U.S. Department of Justice, and Donald C. Semesky, former chief of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Office of Financial Operations. Some 40 companies will be sponsors or exhibitors at the event, which he expects will draw about 500 attendees.
The Miami Herald interviewed Intriago recently at his downtown headquarters, where he oversees some 27 employees, and later emailed him questions.
Q: From Bernie Madoff to Allen Stanford to Scott Rothstein, the major fraudsters often have ties to South Florida. What makes Miami such an epicenter of financial crime?
Epicenter is right. From these big-league Ponzi schemes to healthcare fraud, mortgage fraud, securities fraud, official corruption and welcome mats to dirty money from Latin America, South Florida is the perfect storm of financial crime. Our weather is a draw, making this a second home for many who don’t have deep roots. The desire to show off wealth is evident. Also, we are a cultural polyglot and many South Floridians come from countries of great corruption, and, unfortunately, some of these habits are apparently hard to break. I’m a native of Ecuador, so I’m not speaking out of school. Nevertheless, this is a great international mecca with much to offer, and I’m glad I’ve lived most of my life here.