Articles Posted in Money Laundering

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Recently, Matthew Galluzzo obtained an excellent result for a client in federal court. One of four co-defendants in a conspiracy to ship stolen cars to Africa, our client was charged with violating 18 USC Section 2312. As alleged in the indictment, the group shipped millions of dollars of stolen and fraudulent-obtained cars to Africa (primarily Ghana). Galluzzo’s client pleaded guilty and faced a sentencing range of 10-16 months under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines (offense level 12 and Criminal History Category I).

Mr. Galluzzo submitted to the court a detailed sentencing memorandum describing the client’s difficult upbringing and hard work providing for his family. Mr. Galluzzo submitted character letters from the client’s family, friends and pastor in support of his good character and reputation. The court reviewed these submissions and, after a sentencing hearing in the Southern District of New York, decided not to impose an additional prison sentence upon him. The client will be on supervised release and able to continue with his current employment. (The client spent about six days in prison before arranging for the posting of his bail at the outset of the case and following his arrest.)

In addition, the client could have been subject to millions of dollars in restitution, meaning he might have been ordered to pay back money to the conspiracy’s victims to compensate them for the crimes. However, Mr. Galluzzo argued to the Court that such an award would have been unfair in his client’s case, given his minor role in the offense and his limited finances. The Court agreed not to impose any forfeiture or restitution penalties, as well.

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This week, American law enforcement officers arrested Aurelien Michel, a French national living in the UAE, as he passed through JFK International Airport in New York City. He has since been arraigned before a federal magistrate judge in the Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn) on federal wire fraud charges, pursuant to 18 USC Section 1343. A complaint unsealed in federal court alleges that Mr. Michel advertised and marketed a series of Mutant Ape NFTs (non-fungible tokens) and collected nearly three million dollars in sales of various cryptocurrencies from numerous buyers and investors. However, it is further alleged that Mr. Michel never delivered the NFTs to his investors, but instead transferred this money to various accounts controlled by him. The complaint alleges that he later apologized on the platform Discord for the “rug pull” (i.e. a slang term for failing to deliver after receiving funds) because the community had become too “toxic.”

It would appear from the complaint that Mr. Michel has an obvious defense that he did not intend to defraud anyone, and that he fully intended to give his customers their NFTs eventually. He may have received the funds and then encountered difficulty in acquiring the NFTs for his customers due to volatile market conditions or other issues.

It is always difficult to estimate sentencing exposure at this stage of a criminal case, but preliminary estimates might suggest the following for Mr. Michel:

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The criminal defense attorneys at the Law Office of Matthew Galluzzo have successfully represented many people charged with money laundering in federal court. This serious accusation can result in very significant penalties, including huge fines and lengthy prison sentences. However, these charges are also frequently quite defensible, too. As such, if you or a loved one have been accused by federal prosecutors of money laundering, you should strongly consider contacting The Law Office of Matthew Galluzzo’s team of former prosecutors.

Money laundering charges typically go hand-in-hand with other related criminal charges brought by law enforcement. Individuals involved in narcotics trafficking, loansharking, racketeering, or Medicare fraud, for example, usually conduct their business in cash for understandable reasons. The problem that these people oftentimes face, however, is that they cannot use their criminal proceeds to purchase things that they want to buy, like real estate for example. This is when money laundering becomes relevant.

Typically, money laundering charges arise when a person with a quantity of illegally-derived cash wants to put the money into a bank account or buy assets with it. A criminal might seek to launder his or her own illegal money by depositing it into a bank account or wiring it to another account. He or she might also enlist the assistance of a professional launderer who takes a percentage of the laundered funds in exchange for depositing them into an account or investing them in some business or asset. The criminal with cash may also manipulate an unwitting novice into laundering it for them, so as to escape responsibility in the event the laundering is discovered.

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