I have a number of CIA stories. This one comes from Santa Fe, New Mexico in the mid-1980s. I met a retired CIA employee who had been asked by the Company to open an art gallery for the purpose of laundering money. Laundering is about taking illegal cash and turning it into taxable legitimate income. The scheme was going to be to buy paintings for $100 and sell them for $15,000. Or at least pretend to sell them for cash at $15,000.
So John, the retired agent, opened his gallery, got a painter in Texas to sell him 200 oil paintings for $100 a piece. John hung them in his gallery and went about his life. The story should end there. Good old Company retired employee.
But this was Santa Fe with hordes of wealthy Texas tourists aimlessly wandering the streets, shopping. John had $15,000 as the prices on his paintings and low and behold the paintings started selling fast. That was the end of the hoped for laundering business. John had a colossal business success. He bought thousands more paintings from the same artist for the original $100 a piece and made a personal fortune.
When I visited the gallery, John had put some real Remingtons and other famous western artists' work scattered around the gallery. He also had some alligators in a pond in his garden behind the gallery. John showed me a room filled with video screen monitors. True to his Company training, John had the garden and gallery totally 'wired' and he could listen to conversations to know what prices patron's were thinking of paying for his products.
True story. Laundering plot foiled by rich Texans' taste for sentimental art.