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Category Archives: 47F Money Laundering (State Charge) Victories

State v. Mr. S (DMC No. 14311) – Felony Money Laundering ($3,000,000 from Drug Sales), Felony RICO/Illegally Conducting an Enterprise, Felony Dangerous Drugs For Sale (Heroin) and Felony Marijuana For Sale – Not Charged – Phoenix Police Department (DR No. 20XX-XXXXXXX0) and Arizona Attorney General Investigated.

The Phoenix Police Department had officers working with the Arizona Financial Crimes Task Force (AZFCTF) who were investigating Money Laundering by various drug cartels. They received a tip from the FBI Gang Unit regarding possible Drug Sales and Money Laundering by a local beauty salon. After conducting surveillance, they ultimately pulled over and arrested a person who had 2.5 pounds of heroin in their possession. There was also copies of money transmitter receipts showing large amounts of money consistently being wired into Mexico. The Detectives received different information that this was all occurring out of a beauty salon in Phoenix. The officers then set up surveillance and observed a man and a woman who would constantly answer a specific telephone and talk for about 15 seconds while writing down information. They would then exchange pieces of paper and information with each other. Officers spoke with a customer service agent of OMNEX – the company that services wire transfers in and out of Mexico. The company which actually fulfills the completion of the transaction in and out of Mexico is GIROMEX money transfer services. That service agent was interviewed, and they were able to confirm that it appeared the calls were coming from two separate people who were constantly wiring money into Mexico.

A raid was then executed on the business and a male and female stylist inside the salon were arrested. It turned out they were brother and sister, and there was also an owner, who was arrested, who was also present in the salon. The owner was questioned and admitted that she would receive a list of fictitious names and would create the money transfers which were all sent to Mexico. She also confirmed that the funds were derived from heroin sales. It was estimated that approximately $4 million had been run through the salon.

After the arrests, we were retained by Mr. S (the male hair stylist) in order to see if we could keep him from being charged with any crimes. The owner of the hair salon pled guilty and was sentenced to prison. The other female hair stylist was deported. We were able to work with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office to show them that they could not make a case against Mr. S based upon “opinion” that his voice was the person on the phone who constantly called and made wire transfers. Because they had deported his sister to Mexico, they had lost the only other direct witness who could positively confirm Mr. S. as the person making the wire transfers. Ultimately, the Attorney General sent the case back to Detectives to see if they could gather more information. No more information could be found regarding Mr. S’s involvement, and he was never charged with any crimes.

State v. Mr. L (DMC No. 14773) – Felony Illegal Control of an Enterprise (RICO), Felony Money Laundering and Felony Possession of Marijuana for Sale – Not Charged – Scottsdale Police Department Investigated (DR No. 20XX-XXXXXX9).

Mr. L was an independent contractor who was working to sell e-tickets for various sporting and entertainment events.  He worked out of a side office for the owner who also owned a mail and parcel express service. While he was working there selling event tickets, he learned that the owner was running a business known as Arizona Cancer Center. Basically, he would take “donations” of $250 in exchange for an ounce of marijuana.

This owner of Arizona Cancer Center was not licensed with the Dispensary Department/Medical Marijuana Program with the Arizona Department of Heath Services. At some point, the office was raided by Scottsdale PD and HEAT (High Enforcement Arrest Team). All of Mr. L’s computers and e-ticket company information was seized.

We became involved and we immediately contacted the Scottsdale Police Department. We were able to show that Mr. L had no involvement with the co-conspirators. All people involved were being investigated for Illegal Control of an Enterprise (RICO), per A.R.S. 13-2312A; Conspiracy, per A.R.S. 1003A; Possession of Marijuana for Sale, per A.R.S. 13-3405(a)(4); and Money Laundering, per A.R.S. 13-2317. We explained that Mr. L was an independent contractor who never sold any marijuana, and never received any money for the co-defendants selling of marijuana. In addition, we were able to show the authorities that he was a witness, not a co-conspirator. Although, all of the other members of the conspiracy were charged, Mr. L was never charged with any crimes, and has no felony record.

State v. Mr. C (DMC No. 14461) – Felony Money Laundering ($362,000 Cash and 37 Gold Coins) – Not Charged and Property Not Forfeited – Lake Havasu Police Department Investigated (DR No. 20XX-XXXXX3).

Mr. C was a Lake Havasu resident who had been riding as a passenger in a car with a friend of his. He and the other gentleman had been drinking, and at some point the driver had stopped the vehicle partially blocking two separate roadways. Mr. C had gotten out of the vehicle and was laying on the ground in a highly intoxicated state. When police arrived, they arrested the driver for DUI, and they arrested Mr. C for “offensive conduct” and open container.

Inside of the vehicle, they found one open bottle of scotch and five unopened bottles on the passenger side floorboard. Upon searching the vehicle, they also found $362,000 in cash along with 37 gold coins (with a value of approximately $55,000).

The police immediately suspected them of Money Laundering, and they obtained a search warrant to search his house. They also seized the money, the coins and his vehicle.

We became involved in the case and we were able to show the police that Mr. C does not trust banks and he has been saving for over twenty years and keeping his money at his house. He also was an avid gold coin collector. We showed them where the hidden compartments in his home are that he has been using as his own personal bank vault. In addition, we put together a statement with documentation showing them what really happened the night Mr. C was arrested. Mr. C’s 8-year old granddaughter had leukemia and was not doing well. In a drunken stupor Mr. C asked his friend, who was also drunk, to drive him to Las Vegas so he could hire a doctor. He took all of his cash and 37 of his gold coins in order to hire this doctor. We were also able to produce past business records which showed that all of the money was legitimately earned. No charges were ever brought against Mr. C, and his money, coins and car were all returned.

State v. Mr. D (DMC No. 13039) – Felony Money Laundering ($1,100), Felony Conspiracy to Commit Sale or Transportation of Narcotics; Felony Sale or Transportation of Marijuana, Felony Use of a Wire Communication or Electronic Communication Device in a Drug Related Transaction and (3 Counts) Felony Aggravated Assault – Reduced to Facilitation, Assisting a Criminal Street Gang and Class 6 Aggravated Assault – All with Probation and a Total of 1 Year in DOC– Maricopa County Superior Court (Case No. CR2015-105571 and CR2015-114161).

The Phoenix Police Department was conducting an investigation into the North Side Mexican Brown Pride 21st Street Gang (MBP 21). This was done after they observed numerous hand to hand drug transactions between various gang members. The police had also documented purchases of heroin, rifles, shotguns and/or stolen vehicles between some of the gang members. At that point, they initiated a traffic stop in connection to an armed robbery suspect and discovered a stolen vehicle and $1,100 in cash. Upon questioning the driver, he stated that Mr. D had sold him some marijuana.

When Mr. D was detained, he admitted to selling marijuana to the juvenile just prior to the traffic stop. He was ultimately charged with Felony Money Laundering, Felony Conspiracy to Commit Sale or Transportation of Narcotic Drugs and Felony Use of a Wire Communication or Electronic Communication Device in a Drug Related Transaction.

Approximately 11 months after this incident with the police, he was also contacted regarding a claim by his then girlfriend that he had assaulted her. The allegations were that he pushed her onto a bed, held a hand over her mouth and grabbed her neck, which caused her air supply to be cut off for approximately 30 seconds. The girlfriend also claimed that he grabbed her by the throat a second time, kept her from leaving the apartment, and that he punched her in the arm. He was charged with 2 Counts of Aggravated Assault for the choking, and 1 Count of Misdemeanor Assault.

We became involved and were able to wrap up all the charges while Mr. D was being held as non-bondable for approximately 5 months in the county jail. We wrapped up the case with 1-year prison sentence, with credit for the 5 months he had already served. In addition, he received a two-month early kickout at the prison, which meant he spent another 5 months in custody before being released. He originally was facing a potential of over 15 years in prison if he were to be convicted of all charges and sentenced consecutively.

State v. Ms. H (DMC No. 13022) – Felony Money Laundering ($162,622), Felony Possession of Marijuana and Felony Possession of Drug Paraphernalia – Reduced to Solicitation and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, both Class 6 Open/Misdemeanors with Probation and Zero Days in Jail – Yavapai County Superior Court (Case No. CR2015-00506).

Ms. H was riding as a passenger in her husband’s truck along the I-40 when they were observed by a Yavapai County Sheriff’s Deputy. The deputy stated that the truck’s temporary license plate was flopping up and down, and that several items that were on the dashboard and the windshield of the truck were causing an obstructed view. Based upon this very questionable observation, the officer stopped Ms. H and her husband. When stopped, Ms. H’s husband stated that he borrowed the truck from a friend. The officer then claimed he smelled an odor of marijuana.

Ms. H’s husband said they were traveling from Kansas to Las Vegas, and when asked about the marijuana, he said he had an eighth of an ounce and a medical marijuana card. It was then discovered that he had an extraditable felony warrant out of Maricopa County for Possession of Marijuana and he was placed under arrest. The officer then began to question Ms. H and search the vehicle.

Discovered inside the vehicle, was three jars filled with marijuana that totaled 3.3 ounces. In addition, there was a purse which contained $75,000 in cash; a backpack which contained $86,000 in cash; and Ms. H’s purse which contained $37,000 in cash. This totaled $162,000. Ms. H and her husband were placed under arrest, and their 5-year old and 10-month old children were turned over to DCS workers

During questioning, Ms. H’s husband said that he was the one selling marijuana, and that his wife had no knowledge. Ms. H admitted to knowing there was marijuana in the bag and that she knew she had $37,000 in her purse. We were able to argue that the stop was a pretext stop (most likely as a result of a confidential informant), and that due to the fact English was a second language, her interrogation could have been misconstrued, plus the fact that her husband had stated that she had no knowledge. Because of all of this, we were able to secure a plea to 1 Count of Facilitation to Commit Money Laundering and 1 Count of Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, both as Class 6 Open/Misdemeanors. This included Probation with zero days in jail. Also included was an agreement to forfeit the $162,000 and the 2012 Chevy Silverado which they were driving at the time. Originally Ms. H was facing well over a decade in prison if convicted of all charges and sentenced to the maximum, instead she successfully completed probation and only has a misdemeanor on her record.

State v. Mr. W (DMC No. 13884) – Felony Money Laundering ($14,000), Felony Transportation of Marijuana For Sale and Felony Possession of Drug Paraphernalia – Reduced to Facilitation Class 6 Open/Misdemeanor with Probation and 2 Days in Jail – Navajo County Superior Court (Case No. CR2015-00846).

A Sergeant with the Navajo County Sheriff’s Office claimed that he was on the side of the road doing paperwork when he saw a car drive by with beads and a triangular air freshener hanging from the rearview mirror. He claimed that it was obstructing the driver’s view, so he then followed and pulled over the driver and the two passengers. The Sheriff’s Sergeant claimed that he smelled marijuana, and then did a search, and found a backpack containing three jars of marijuana and a glass pipe. When the three co-defendants were questioned, they all began blaming each other. Eventually, a deal was struck where one of the co-defendants told the Sergeant that Mr. W was also driving a different car that contained marijuana and a large amount of cash. That co-defendant was then released from custody.

When Mr. W was driving down the road, another officer received a radio call asking to stop a car matching Mr. W’s description. Mr. W was stopped, he was not Mirandized, and a search took place of his vehicle. A container with green residue of marijuana was contained in his backpack, along with $14,000 in cash. Mr. W had a medical marijuana card from California and the amount of marijuana found was well within the legal amounts authorized by the AMMA. Once we became involved in the case, we were able to show the Prosecutor that the stop was very questionable. After interviewing the arresting Officer, he could not even remember whether he saw any driving violations or why he was instructed to stop Mr. W. Because of the threat to file a Motion to Suppress All Evidence, the Prosecutor agreed to instead offer a Facilitation plea to a Class 6 Open/Misdemeanor Distribution with only two days in jail. Mr. W was even allowed to do the jail time in the state of Kansas (where he was from). Although he was initially facing a potential of 10 years or more in prison if convicted of all counts and sentenced to consecutive terms, he ended up ultimately completing probation and having only a misdemeanor on his record.

For a 1 ½ year period, the Drug Enforcement Agency conducted an undercover investigation of various drug trafficking organizations. This particular organization was known for trafficking large amounts of money, marijuana, methamphetamine and cocaine. All of which was imported from Mexico into the United States. Using wire taps and other undercover activities, the DEA observed Mr. K at a high level hotel in Chicago, Illinois exchanging money.

Subsequently, a traffic stop was conducted and Mr. K was found to have a duffel bag containing $84,900 in his possession. Ultimately, indictments of 43 co-conspirators were handed down, of which Mr. K was one. During the investigation with Mr. K, he accepted responsibility and admitted that on five or six other occasions, he went to Mexico and trafficked in money. This was due to severe financial hardship as a result of many years of drought in his home state which affected his farming business.

Due to his cooperation with the Prosecutor, combined with an extensive amount of mitigation, we were able to secure an offer that would allow the Judge to potentially sentence Mr. K to no jail time at all. He was facing 4.5 years minimum if he were to have gone to Trial and been convicted on all counts. Ultimately, Mr. K plead to a reduced charge of Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering and received Probation with zero days in jail.

Mr. L was traveling on the I-40 when he was pulled over by a DPS officer who claimed he was following too closely to another vehicle. He was ultimately stopped and the van was found to have been rented to our client, who was the front seat passenger. Although all three individuals in the van spoke Spanish, they were asked to sign a Consent to Search form that was in both English and Spanish. Ultimately, the Officers discovered large empty duffel bags with empty Ziploc bags. They also tested the seats and found they did not have the proper density.

After physically removing the back panel off the seats, they located bundles of US currency which totaled just over $403,000. All three individuals were arrested, and Mr. L was charged with Money Laundering. During the defense of the case, we were able to show that the prior conviction out of Florida did not qualify as actual convictions, and that these were not to be used against our client. Because the fact pattern of the stop was very similar to other cases we have handled, and because the location was very similar to other stops, we began inquiring into the identity of any possible informants.

We worked with the Prosecutor, who then agreed to reduce the charges to a Class 6 Open/Misdemeanor Facilitation with Probation and no additional jail, as long as there was a stipulated forfeiture of the $403,000 and there would be no further discovery into the identity of any possible informants.  Other issues included the fact that other Officers initially testified that there were no informants, but this appeared to be somewhat questionable. Ultimately, Mr. L was facing mandatory prison due to the amount being laundered was above $100,000, he instead received probation, which he successfully completed. He now only has a Misdemeanor conviction on his record.

Mr. K was driving on the I-40 when a Mohave County Sheriff’s Deputy stated that he was following a truck too closely. He also claimed he was traveling 80 in a 70 miles per hour zone. After Mr. K was pulled over, the Deputy had a dog circle his vehicle. The Deputy claimed the dog alerted to drugs. Eventually, Mr. K stated he had money in the car. As the Deputy began searching the car, he was about to cut off the locks to a toolbox when Mr. K said “you can’t do that.“ A search warrant was never obtained because they couldn’t get one at that time.

Once the locks were cut off the toolbox, $20,000 in cash was found inside. Mr. K told Officers that it was investors’ money for dirt bikes that were in San Diego. After the locks were cut, Mr. K asked multiple times “is this legal.” Because the money was all twenty-dollar bills wrapped in Ziploc baggies, Mr. K was arrested for Money Laundering and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia. When Officers began questioning him, he stated “do I need a lawyer because I don’t want to incriminate myself.” He also said “I believe I should talk to a lawyer.” However, Officers continued to question him relentlessly.

We ultimately filed a Motion to Dismiss for both Illegal Search and Seizure, and Violation of Right to Counsel. These Motions were filed on September 21, 2017.  By October 10, 2017, the Prosecutor filed a Motion to Dismiss all charges.

Mr. C was followed for approximately 5 to 10 miles by a DPS Officer on the freeway when he was pulled over for allegedly following an RV too closely. When stopped, he was immediately asked if there were any drugs, guns, or money in his car. Mr. C was an African-American, and immediately became suspicious of the Officer. The Officer then had a drug sniffing dog walk around the car which alerted to the presence of drugs.

Once the vehicle was searched, no drugs or drug paraphernalia was found in the car. However, Mr. C. was asked about money and he said there was a bag with $164,000 in cash inside of his car. He explained to the Officer that that money was going to be used to build a house for his mother. When asked about ledgers in the car, he explained that those had to do with contractors and who were to be paid pertaining to the building of the house. Mr. C was not from Arizona, however, he was arriving in Arizona in order to meet with the people who were going to be building the house. He and his passenger were arrested and Mr. C was charged with three Class 3 felonies: Money Laundering, Illegal Control of an Enterprise (State RICO), and Conspiracy.

After we filed our Notice of Appearance, we then began speaking to the Prosecutor prior to the Preliminary Hearing. The Prosecutor ultimately agreed that there was not enough evidence to proceed with the charges and they were all dismissed prior to the Status Conference/Preliminary Hearing. Approximately 4 months later, the Attorney General’s Office filed a Notice of Forfeiture for the $164,000. After a review of the 844-page police report, Mr. C decided he did not wish to contest the Forfeiture.

After working with the AG for several months, she decided not to pursue criminal charges and instead proceed only by way of uncontested Forfeiture.

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