A Southeast Portland-based maker of chain saws and other cutting tools has cut a deal with the U.S. Attorney’s Office: $1.7 million in exchange for a non-prosecution agreement.
Oregon Tool, then known as Blount Industries Inc., allegedly continued to do business with Nigerian distributors after the company had been warned it was getting paid with money from scam victims, including elderly women bilked in online romance scams.
Between 2016 and 2019, two of Oregon Tool’s distributors in Nigeria bought $1.7 million worth products from Oregon Tool. Federal prosecutors say the U.S. company accepted payments through an unlicensed money transmitter that had been linked to a Nigerian money-laundering scheme.
Much of that money, the FBI determined, came from a variety of illicit scams. Some of the victims were local, federal prosecutors said, including a Beaverton woman who handed over an undisclosed sum at the request of someone she met on a dating website.
In 2012, the U.S. Secret Service warned the company, then known as Blount, that it would soon seize one of its Nigerian distributors’ bank accounts, alleging the money used to pay the company were the proceeds from fraud.
Ten years later, in January 2022, the FBI informed the company of its own investigation. Oregon Tool ended its relationship with the one Nigerian distributor it was still doing business with, according to the government.
Oregon Tool officials said the company has cooperated fully with the investigators. Emily Lyle, senior vice president for human resources for the company, declined to comment on the specific allegations.
“The current management team was not involved, so we can’t speculate,” Lyle said. “We’ve been super transparent.”
The company is based in Portland and has some 3,000 employees worldwide.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office will file a civil forfeiture complaint against Oregon Tool to collect the $1.7 million. It hopes to distribute the funds to victims of the scams.
– Jeff Manning; email@example.com