Question from a lawyer

Dear David,

I was told that you successfully defeated a government claim that laundered money in a case you had was narcotics proceeds. Is that a reported case? – Marty


No, it was not a reported case but it happened –twice in fact. Once because I had an amenable (read, “older”) prosecutor who chose not to fight because the defendant was getting sufficiently punished, and once because the government had non specific evidence plus I had a great judge. It was in Miami, Judge Adalberto Jordon, presiding. The judge ordered a hearing and all the Government could do is prove that it “looked like, walked like, and acted like,” narcotics proceeds meaning, that the prosecutor said “that narcotics dealers stack their money in ‘bricks’(money stacked in piles).  Our money was stacked in “bricks,” and the prosecutor said:  “Therefore the money must be narcotics proceeds.” The Judge didn’t buy it.

It taught me that if the government doesn’t have specific evidence that the money came from narcotics trafficking, you’re in good shape. To get there though, and this is a point worth making, you might have to plead to every charge in the indictment. But that is ok. I have never known a judge to penalize a defendant for putting the government to its proof in a post conviction setting.

Actually, pleading to all the charges, except where there are mandatory minimum sentences is not unreasonable when you do not get a reasonable plea offer. I see no point in walking away from a good fight when you won’t get hurt anyway. There is no mandatory minimum in money laundering cases, so there is no reason to enter into a plea agreement. A defendant will get the same sentence whether he pleads to one charge or twenty charges, and every experienced lawyer knows that. Now maybe you want to get a limit on quantity of funds laundered so you’ll take a plea bargain, but that is a rare bird. Most judges will sentence you based on the funds you laundered not what was “reasonably foreseeable.”

David Zapp

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2 Responses to Question from a lawyer

  1. Joseph S Rosenbaum says:

    Was that my case? Sounds exactly like the case I was lead counsel on in Miami.


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