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Money Laundering Alert publisher Charles Intriago bolsters revenue with government reports, conferences, an association, and certification.

An improbably blonde six-year-old boy ("It's mostly grey now"), Charles Intraigo arrived in New York City from his native Ecuador. "I don't know how the nuns ever let me out of the first grade," he remembered, "I didn't speak a w-o-r-d of English."

But years passed and, in 1988-89, after a career that included service as a federal prosecutor, counsel to a congressional committee and special counsel to a governor, Intriago found himself a successful attorney in private practice with a big Miami law firm.

Successful, but somewhat bored. "The pay is good in the private sector, but the gratification level tends to be low. In government work it's often the opposite," he said.

So, after a career largely spent chasing mobsters and other assorted criminals, during which he learned that 95+ percent of all crimes--except those of passion--are motivated by money, he conceived the idea of launching a single topic newsletter covering money laundering.

Commissions report to study feasibility of newsletter

As an attorney, "and a naturally conservative type," Intriago then commissioned a well-known Washington D.C. research firm to study the feasibility of this idea," he said.

"They did a national survey, even put a crisp $1 bill in each to hike response and, in the end, I paid them nearly $20,000 for a report that said, 'Don't give up your day job.' There was little interest in this narrow subject.

"I've kept the report. It reminds me never to abandon an idea, he said.

"I'd spent enough time with the U.S. Congress to know that once they found a sexy topic, like money laundering that involved crime, cash, maybe mobsters, they wouldn't let go--they'd worry it like a dog with a bone. They'd investigate, authorize and enact ... and then do it again and, being the U.S., attempt to blackjack the rest of the world into following their lead."

He was right and the 1989-launched Money Laundering Alert (now 12x/$445) enjoyed early success and averaged double-digit growth throughout the '90s."

Published by Alert Global Media Inc., the newsletter is described as "the world's leading authority on money laundering, providing news, guidance and analyses on cases, laws and regulations."

Double-digit growth, that is, "until 9/11 when we suddenly jumped to nearly three times that growth. All the years we'd been covering the problems of movement of 'dirty money' (largely from drugs), and now we had a whole new area, the potential movement of "clean money' into dirty areas."

"One-note Charlie"

Asked somewhat facetiously if he were considering the launch of Money Dirtying Report, Charles said, "I've remained a one-note Charlie. I go to NEPA meetings and hear over and over, 'Move into your next backyard.' Our area has lots of 'next backyards' and 'down the streets'--fraud, cybercrime--but there is so much happening in our own yard we've stayed put," he said.

"For one thing, money laundering is still a fairly new subject. Ronald Reagan only signed the first-ever money laundering law in 1985.

"And the subject keeps growing on us. The U.S. Treasury just issued a new set of regulations subjecting the jewelry and precious gems business to money laundering controls and the next target, we understand, is the insurance industry."

Marketing

Intriago said their approach to marketing is "multi-level." "Direct mail is still a 'major element' along with the web, e-mails and, being careful of ever changing regulations, fax marketing."

Charles added, "Because of our subject, we get as much publicity as any newsletter and our policy here is to treat every inquiry the same, The New York Times or the Ogdensburg (N.Y.) Journal. All the exposure 'validates' our marketing effort.

"Our first big break came on November 8, 1989 when the Wall Street Journal published a little box on our interesting new newsletter. And it took off, we had calls from the Financial Times, CNN featured us for several days (back when they covered news, not just Michael Jackson). Unsolicited orders came in; orders from Hong Kong, Australia and Bolivia. I thought, 'You know, maybe those market researchers were wrong ...'"

"Another major advantage we have is that we aren't publishing 'nice to know' information. The U.S. government requires that folks know these regulations and every state has its own set of regs. It's truly must-have information."

The tail that wags the dog

Charles said that ancillaries have become "the tail that wags the dog." We started way back when, before the internet, selling government documents. We told people they could get them free, IF they knew how to find them. And I remember working up my courage to charge $95 for a three-hour workshop."

Today he believes they "wrote the book" on conferences. Their first International Money Laundering Conference drew 150 people in 1993. This year's, always in south Florida, drew 1,253 delegates (a figure he had on the tip of his tongue) at a ticket price of $1,985.

"Last year it was $1,945, we're trying to stay under $2,000 but running out of room," he said.

"The government is one of our best customers; delegates (and subscribers) include FBI and CIA agents and bank examiners. The government publishes regulations. We rewrite them into English and the government buys them back from us."

When we spoke, Charles and eight or nine staffers had just returned from Mexico City from their Latin American conference. The European conference is set for Barcelona in September and they do other seminars, mostly in the Miami area, throughout the year.

Another source of ancillary revenue is their training videos and CDs. Here, for example, are two titles from their "Webcast CD-ROM and Course Materials": Terrorist Financing, Money Laundering Methods and the U.S. Money Laundering and Forfeiture Laws--How to Detect It and Comply and AML Controls and Bank Secrecy Act Regulations (AML stands for Anti-Money Laundering).

Launches association

In February 2002, they began ACAMS, the Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists. Today it has 2,500+ individual members in 100 countries (bank compliance officers, financial service firm execs). Dues are $175 annually, $225, for "certified" specialists. Alert Global Media, of course, runs the certification program.

The ACAMS 4th annual conference is set for September in Toronto (registration $820). Saskia Rietbroek-Garces is the executive director. She's originally from Holland. Intraigo noted that about three-quarters of his staff of 45 is from outside the U.S. "Partially due to doing business in Miami, 'the capital of Latin America' and partially from our commitment to diversity."

In addition to Latin America, they have staffers from Poland and Taiwan.

Websites

Asked if the internet has changed everything, Charles said, "For us it has. In addition to marketing, in the past two years our two websites have become our main medium of communicating content."

They have a paid premium subscription area ($895) where information is updated much more frequently, sometimes daily.

Paula Nino manages the websites, one of which is in Spanish (I love money laundering in Spanish--lavadodinero). "The content is somewhat different than the English site," Charles explained. "The U.S. has a long history of beating up on Latin America, and money transfer, financial regulation, is a major area of concern and people in Latin America are very interested in news from the U.S."

Alert Global Media Inc., 1101 Brickell Ave.,

#601, South Tower, Miami, FL 33131,

P.O. Box 310037, Miami, FL 33231, 305-530-0500, 800-232-3652, fax 305-530-9434, www.moneylaundering.com, wwwlavadodinero.com

Editor's Note

The whole topic of dirty money and money laundering reminded me of a magazine cartoon where the Sweet Young Thing says to her date, "I don't understand why we are worried about the Mafia moving into legitimate business. Isn't that what we want them to do?"--F.G.
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Title Annotation:Publisher profile
Author:Goss, Fred
Publication:The Newsletter on Newsletters
Date:Aug 17, 2005
Words:1291
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