Wednesday, June 29th, 2005

Draconian Forfeiture Penalty Upheld in Money Laundering Case

United States v. Bermudez, Docket No. 02-1699 (L) (2d Cir. June 29, 2005) (Walker, Pooler, Wesley) (per curiam): Let this be a warning to all the kids out there: You launder money, you lose something even more precious than your freedom — your Miami condo and even your Swiss bank account. In this short opinion, the Court affirms a district court’s order (1) requiring the defendant — convicted of laundering drug proceeds in Colombia — to forfeit $14.2 million to the Government (the amount of money he was accused of laundering on behalf of his drug dealin’ clients), and (2) substituting his Miami residence and funds in a Swiss bank account in lieu of this amount because the defendant did not actually have this money (after all, he was only laundering it for his clients, not keeping it). The Court acknowledged that such forfeiture was “extremely punitive and burdensome,” given that defendant likely only received a small fraction of the $14.2 million amount as his fee, but ruled that the relevant statutes clearly contemplated this result.

Those interested in the details of the statutory analysis will have to consult the opinion themselves; my clients luckily face only the prospect of lengthy imprisonment and not the “extremely punitive and burdensome” punishment of forfeiture.

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