Supreme Court to Define "Money Laundering"

Scotus Blog reports:

The Supreme Court agreed on Monday to spell out when an individual engaged in “laundering” of crime proceeds has illegally concealed their real source — in effect, what it means to “launder” money. The issue arises in Cuellar v. U.S. (06-1456). This was the only case granted Monday. Click the following links to read the petition for certiorari, brief in opposition, reply brief, and amicus brief on behalf of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

The question:

“Whether merely hiding funds with no design to create the appearance of legitimate wealth is sufficient to support a money laundering conviction?” Relying on dictionary definitions and legal argument, the petition contends that “as a matter of plain English, to ‘launder’ money ‘is to disguise illegally-obtained money by making it appear legitimate’ ” — in other words, to make “dirty money” look “clean.”

Under the principal federal money laundering law, criminalizing both transactions in or transportation of crime proceeds, it is a violation if the accused individual knows that either activity was “designed in whole or in part….to conceal or disguise” the nature, location, source, ownership or control of those proceeds.

The facts:

in July 2004, when Cuellar was driving toward Mexico, when his car was stopped by a deputy sheriff near Eldorado, Texas. The officer suspected the driver had been drinking. After the car was stopped, and another officer summoned to converse with Cuellar in Spanish, officers noted a bulge in his pocket, and found a roll of $10 and $20 bills; the officers thought they smelled of marijuana. A drug-sniffing dog then alerted to the scent of the currency and to a floorboard in the rear of the car. Inside a compartment there, officers found $83,000 in cash wrapped in duct-taped bundles. He was charged with and convicted of the concealment prong of the international money-laundering law.

For plain English, see the Associated Press report.

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    Maybe I'm missing something (none / 0) (#1)
    by Deconstructionist on Mon Oct 15, 2007 at 03:02:20 PM EST
      and I only read the petition so far, but why was he not tried under the promotion prong which appears more readily inferrable (i.e. he was transporting the money to conclude the illegal activity and set the stage for another illegal act with the proceeds.

      18 U.S.C. 1956 (a)


    (2) Whoever transports, transmits, or transfers, or attempts to transport, transmit, or transfer a monetary instrument or funds from a place in the United States to or through a place outside the United States or to a place in the United States from or through a place outside the United States--
    (A) with the intent to promote the carrying on of specified unlawful activity; or

    (B) knowing that the monetary instrument or funds involved in the transportation, transmission, or transfer represent the proceeds of some form of unlawful activity and knowing that such transportation, transmission, or transfer is designed in whole or in part--
    (i) to conceal or disguise the nature, the location, the source, the ownership, or the control of the proceeds of specified unlawful activity; or
    (ii) to avoid a transaction reporting requirement under State or Federal law,
    shall be sentenced to a fine of not more than $500,000 or twice the value of the monetary instrument or funds involved in the transportation, transmission, or transfer, whichever is greater, or imprisonment for not more than twenty years, or both. For the purpose of the offense described in subparagraph (B), the defendant's knowledge may be established by proof that a law enforcement officer represented the matter specified in subparagraph (B) as true, and the defendant's subsequent statements or actions indicate that the defendant believed such representations to be true.