Legal expert and author of ‘Asset Forfeiture Law in the United States’ Stefan Cassella examines a recent judgement in which the court found that circumstantial evidence, including structuring money order transactions and the use of names of defendant’s friends and relatives, is sufficient to establish that the defendant was aware that the purpose of buying money orders and having others cash them was to conceal or disguise drug proceeds.
United States v. Brown, ___ Fed. Appx. ___, 2018 WL 1750545 (10th Cir. Apr. 11, 2018).
Tenth Circuit * Defendant was one of several defendants charged with conspiring to launder drug money by purchasing money orders in Oklahoma and sending them, with the payee left blank, to various third parties in California where they were converted back to cash that was turned over to drug dealers.
He was convicted of conspiring to commit concealment money laundering and appealed.
Defendant argued that there was insufficient evidence to prove that he knew that the purpose of the transactions was to conceal or disguise criminal proceeds, or that he intended to join the conspiracy to do so.
But the panel held that the jury was entitled to reject Defendant’s explanation for his actions and to rely on the following facts to find him guilty.
Defendant himself received eight $1,000 money orders and cashed them two at a time, apparently to avoid reporting requirements.
Also, the third parties to whom the money orders were sent included persons to whom Defendant was connected, such as his uncle and life-long friends.
Finally, the court held that Defendant’s decision to change the manner in which money orders were purchased and cashed after one of the drug dealers was arrested indicated that he was well aware of the purpose of the money order transactions.
So, Defendant’s conviction was affirmed. SDC
Stefan Cassella, Asset Forfeiture Law, LLC