The DOJ filed a civil forfeiture complaint in Manhattan federal court last week targeting seven properties allegedly purchased in Dutchess County, New York by a Greek national using the proceeds of a long-running human smuggling operation.
The complaint alleged that since 2013, Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos was investigated for human smuggling and visa fraud by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), in coordination with Greek law enforcement agencies.
He allegedly participated in human smuggling, passport fraud, and visa fraud since at least 2003, the DOJ said.
The complaint includes claims for the forfeiture of seven properties in the Town of Wappinger, New York. The DOJ is also asking for civil money laundering penalties of at least $373,000.
Panagiotopoulos “facilitated the smuggling of foreign nationals, principally Albanian citizens, into the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, and Canada, in exchange for payments of thousands of dollars per smuggled person,” according to the DOJ.
He laundered the mostly cash payments or money orders he received through bank accounts in the United States and then used the money to buy real estate, including the seven properties in Dutchess County, just north of New York City.
Panagiotopoulos was recently arrested and charged by Greek authorities with crimes relating to false applications for passports, the DOJ said.
He’s now awaiting trial in Athens.
Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.