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US Treasury expands scope of hunt for money laundering in real estate

View of skyline and commercial real estate in New York City.
Roberto Machado Noa | LightRocket | Getty Images
View of skyline and commercial real estate in New York City.

The U.S. Treasury on Wednesday expanded its hunt for international criminals who launder money through real-estate deals by ordering title insurance companies to report all-cash buyers' identities in parts of California and Texas, as well as greater swaths of New York and Florida.

The program to unmask the individuals behind shell companies that buy high-end houses with cash will still cover New York City's Manhattan and Miami-Dade County, its two focus areas announced in January. Starting in August, it will also reach into New York's boroughs, Florida's Broward and Palm Beach counties, and Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay area, and San Diego, California, as well as San Antonio in Texas.

Alongside uncovering illicit activities by generating investigative leads and identifying new suspects, the program is informing future regulation, according to the department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCen.

"By expanding ...to other major cities, we will learn even more about the money-laundering risks in the national real estate markets, helping us determine our future regulatory course," FinCen Acting Director Jamal El-Hindi said in a statement.

The price threshold for reporting an all-cash transaction in Manhattan is $3 million and in the surrounding boroughs $1.5 million. The threshold in Florida is $1 million, and in California $2 million. The Texas threshold is the lowest at $500,000.