Hurrah for four West Virginia federal investigators -- Michael Stein of Charleston and colleagues Ryan Korner, Jason Gandee and Bryant Moravek -- who triggered America's largest money-laundering prosecution of a shady international bank.
The crackdown began because Dr. Barton Adams, operator of a pain clinic at Vienna near Parkersburg, netted millions dishonestly from Medicare, Medicaid and private insurers through fraudulent billings. The health plans were duped into paying for fictitious treatments.
Dr. Adams' wife Josephine used the huge HSBC British bank to funnel millions into secret accounts in Hong Kong, the Philippines, China, Canada and the British Virgin Islands. Last year, she was convicted of obstructing justice. In November, her husband pleaded guilty to bogus billings and tax evasion.
The investigation of HSBC spread to include concealment of dirty money from Mexican drug cartels and blacklisted foreign regimes. U.S. agents found that scummy narcotics operators deposited hundreds of thousands of dollars per day, in special boxes designed to fit teller windows.
The case culminated last week when HSBC agreed to pay a record-breaking $1.9 billion in forfeiture and fines. Although the corporation was convicted of crimes, no individual bankers were charged -- on grounds that prosecutions might bring bank collapses. HSBC promised to be more careful in accepting large deposits.
Some observers were annoyed. Former U.S. regulator Bill Black, now a University of Missouri professor, told reporter Paul Nyden the failure to prosecute bankers was "beyond obscene," adding:
"They're felons; they're massive felons; they did it for years; they lied to us; and they made a lot of money... and they got caught red-handed and they're gonna walk. That's the logic that we get stability by leaving felons in charge of our largest banks. This is insane."
We leave it to you to decide whether bankers should have been jailed. Meanwhile, we're proud of four West Virginia federal investigators who helped bring the giant bank to justice.