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Cash cards used to launder dirty money

Criminals who need to launder money have turned to gift and cash cards to clean up their illicit funds. KPBS reporter Amy Isackson has the story.

Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman Misha Piastro says drug organizations, in particular, end up with a lot of cash. He says federal officials have cracked down on traditional money laundering methods, like wire transfers or investing in real estate or the stock market. He believes that's forced criminals to devise new methods.

Piastro: "Gift cards or phone cards. Any of these cards with electronic strips that you can put value on. These drug trafficking organizations can then spend those cards anywhere in the United States or anywhere in the world and thereby effectively spend their drug proceeds."

Piastro says his agency is keeping a close watch on this new trend along the California Mexico border.

The DEA seized $17 million in drug money in San Diego last year. That's up
$6 million from 2004. Amy Isackson, KPBS news.

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