Tell us about one of your most memorable money laundering cases
New York white collar criminal defense attorney, Priya Chaudhry, reflects on important defenses of money laundering cases.
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The most interesting money laundering case involved a client of mine who was a Hassidic Jew and he had several mom and pop appliance stores throughout Brooklyn. His clientele was basically low-income people who would come in and pay him cash. So as result, at the end of the week when he would go pick up all the cash from his stores he would be walking around with $20,000.00 or $30,000.00 in cash. People began to know this about him and he got robbed several times and he was even shot once.
And because of that, he changed his practice and he would pick up the money on a more of daily basis and he would go and deposit it in banks as soon as he got it. And this multiple deposits of cash throughout the day or throughout a week is typical money laundering behavior so the government believed he was wandering money and they started investigating him with money laundering and charged him with money laundering. The government also had a cooperator, which is someone that they had caught who was committing another crime who was trying to help himself. That cooperator offered to call my client and make a tape to prove that my client was in fact money laundering.
Now the government did not turn over this tape at first. They should have but they didn’t. And they presented all this evidence and they came at us with a very inflated plea saying that if he went to trial then he would be looking at a lot of time. So we were working out a plea agreement with the government and we worked one out that was very favorable for my client even though he was innocent. And after the plea but before the sentence the government finally turned over the tape and that’s when I heard it. And when I heard it, at the beginning of the tape the cooperator says to the agent, “This guy doesn’t know anything about this, so I have to be very careful what I say.” Once I heard that, I brought it to the prosecutor’s attention and I said, “Have you heard this?” And he was a good guy and he heard it and he said, “You’re right,” and he dismissed the case after the plea.