Archive | money laundering

Monday, July 10th, 2023

Guilty of money laundering? Not so fast.

The federal money-laundering statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(1)(B)(i), makes it a crime for any person, “knowing that the property involved in a financial transaction represents the proceeds of some form of unlawful activity,” to conduct or attempt to conduct “such a financial transaction which in fact involves the proceeds of specified unlawful activity … knowing that the transaction is designed in whole or in part … to conceal or disguise the nature, the location, the source, the ownership, or the control of the proceeds of specified unlawful activity.” (Emphasis added.)

In United States v. Aybar-Peguero, Nos. 21-1711(L), 21-1847(Con) (2d Cir. July 6, 2023) (Walker, Lee, and Nathan), the defendant pleaded guilty to this offense—known as “concealment money laundering”—and to drug trafficking. He admitted that he sold narcotics out of his convenience store and deposited the proceeds into his bank accounts along with his store’s legitimate earnings. …

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Categories: money laundering, plain error

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Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

Thorn, Again

United States v. Thorn, No. 11-37-cr (2d Cir. October 20, 2011) (Jacobs, Sack, Raggi, CJJ)

This is Joseph Thorn’s third time in the circuit. Thorn ran an upstate asbestos removal company; he performed dangerous, substandard work, and used the money he earned to grow the business. In 2000, a Northern District jury convicted him of money laundering and environmental crimes, and the district court sentenced him to 65 months’ imprisonment. On the government’s appeal, the circuit vacated the sentence – the guidelines were mandatory then – and on remand the district court downwardly departed to 168 months from what it thought was a 235-month guideline minimum. The government appealed and won again. By this time the guidelines were advisory, however, so while the guideline minimum was now up to 292 months, the district court sentenced Thorn to 144 months.

Three years later, Thorn filed a 2255 motion, seeking to vacate …

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Categories: cause and prejudice, money laundering, procedural default, Uncategorized

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Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

Pill Pains

United States v. Quinones, No. 09-4361-cr (2d Cir. March 29, 2011) (Walker, Straub, Katzmann, CJJ)

Antonio Quinones and his son, Herman, were convicted of conspiring to distribute controlled substances. Antonio was also convicted of a money laundering conspiracy. In this opinion, the Court tries to make sense of a confusing Supreme Court money laundering case and displays a rare difference of opinion over a conscious avoidance jury instruction.


Antonio Quinones entered the internet pharmacy business in 2002 and, for several years, ran websites where customers could purchase prescription drugs with virtually no medical oversight. The purchaser would select the drug he wanted and fill out a brief medical questionnaire. This was then submitted to a doctor who reviewed it and approved the order. The doctors were paid per questionnaire reviewed, and often reviewed more than one hundred per day. Once approved, the prescription was transmitted to an actual pharmacy …

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Categories: conscious avoidance, money laundering, Uncategorized

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Monday, March 29th, 2010

High Sierra

United States v. Sierra, No,. 08-2761-cr (2d Cir. March 29, 2010) (Jacobs, Miner, Livingston, CJJ)
Gustavo Sierra pled guilty to one count of drug trafficking and one count of money laundering. The drug count involved 21 kilograms of heroin, while the money laundering count involved the proceeds of the sale of between 2 and 3.5 kilograms. Sierra’s presentence report calculated the base offense level for the money laundering count by using the total amount of the drugs involved in the drug trafficking count. With adjustments, this produced a sentencing range of 135-168 months.
Sierra objected, arguing that the guideline range for the money laundering count should be based only on the drug quantity alleged in that count, which would produce a lower offense level. The district court disagreed, used the higher range, and sentenced him to 135 months’ imprisonment.
On appeal, the circuit affirmed. It characterized Sierra as a

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Categories: disparity, money laundering, Uncategorized

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Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

Money Disorder

United States v. Garcia, No. 08-1621-cr (2d Cir. December 1, 2009) (Jacobs, Sack, Lynch, CJJ)

In Cuellar v. United States, 128 S.Ct. 1994 (2008), the Court held that, for the crime of transportation money laundering under 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(2)(B)(i), the government most prove more than that the money was hidden during its transportation. Rather, it must prove that the “purpose,” not merely the effect, of the transportation was to conceal or disguise the nature, location, source, ownership or control of the money. Thus, the government must prove not just how the money was moved, but why it was moved. The Second Circuit has held that this holding applies equally to “transaction” money laundering under 18 U.S.C. § 956(a)(1)(B)(i), which makes it a crime to engage in certain financial transactions, including the transfer or delivery of cash, for those same purposes.

Here, the court held that, in light of these …

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Categories: money laundering, plain error, plea allocution, Uncategorized

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Sunday, May 10th, 2009

The Pursuit of Happy Ness

United States v. Ness, No. 05-4401-cr (2d Cir. May 8, 2009) (Winter, Calabresi, Pooler, CJJ)

Samuel Ness was convicted of money laundering offenses in connection with his armored car business, which received and distributed millions of dollars in narcotics proceeds. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison. On his first appeal, the circuit affirmed. He then sought certiorari in the wake of Regalado Cuellar v. United States, 128 S.Ct. 1994 (2008), and the Supreme Court vacated the affirmance and remanded the case for further consideration. This time, the circuit found that the evidence was insufficient and reversed the conviction.

Cuellar held that, for transportation money laundering offenses, the government must prove that the defendant’s purpose, “in whole or in part, was to conceal the nature, location, source, ownership or control of the funds.” A showing that a defendant hid funds during transportation is not sufficient to support a conviction, …

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Categories: money laundering, sufficiency, Uncategorized

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Saturday, October 25th, 2008

Slight Change

United States v. Huezo, No. 07-0033-cr (2d Cir. October 14, 2008) (Newman, Walker, Sotomayor, CJJ)

Defendant Huezo was convicted, after a jury trial, of money laundering and money laundering conspiracy. The district court granted his post-verdict Rule 29 motion, and the government appealed. A divided appellate panel reversed. It also, however, unanimously wrought an important change in conspiracy law: an elimination of the so-called “slight evidence” rule.


On November 5, 2004, two of Huezo’s co-conspirators drove from Connecticut to New York in a Jeep registered to Heuzo to discuss delivering $1 million to an undercover agent, who was posing as a money launderer. Three days later, Huezo drove one of them back to New York, opened the trunk from the driver’s seat, and the agent recovered a bag containing half of the money. It was packaged in bundles, as is typical for money laundering transactions. The two men returned …

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Categories: conspiracy, money laundering, sufficiency, Uncategorized

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