Monday, October 15, 2007

Supremes Take Money Laundering Case

The United States Supreme Court accepted certiorari on a money laundering case.  (Cuellar v. United States) The question the petitioner raises is "[w]hether merely hiding funds with no design to create the appearance of legitimate wealth is sufficient to support a money laundering conviction." (See Scotus Blog here)  The Brief of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers here explains that "[t]he expansive and unwarranted interpretation adopted by the Courts of Appeals for the Second, Third, Fifth, and Eleventh Circuits improperly expands the scope of an already broad statute far beyond its intended reach."   

Although the case accepted by the court is not a white collar crime case, the Court's decision here could make a difference in the white collar world.  One finds money laundering charges in white collar crime cases as charges that are "tacked" onto the substantive offenses. (See Teresa E. Adams, Tacking on Money Laundering Charges to White Collar Crimes: What Did Congress Intend, and What Are the Courts Doing?, 17 Ga. St. L.Rev. 531 (2000)) (see also here)  Applying a strict interpretation to the statute and reading the legislative intent narrowly could assist in keeping money laundering as the crime it should be, as opposed to one that can be used as a bargaining chip to secure a plea agreement in a white collar case.


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