Texas residents are likely aware that federal law enforcement agencies often consult with experts when investigating complex white-collar crimes, but they may be surprised by media reports revealing that one of these consultants has been charged with committing the very offenses he provided information about. According to court documents unsealed on Nov. 18, a 73-year-old University of Miami professor who assisted the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration and Department of Justice with money laundering investigations has been accused of laundering money.
Federal prosecutors in New York say that the professor started laundering about $3 million for an unnamed Colombian national in November 2017. The professor is alleged to have taken 10% of the hundreds of thousands of dollars transferred to bank accounts in the United States each month as his fee. The rest of the money was withdrawn and handed to a second unnamed Colombian national according to prosecutors. The money, which was wired to American banks from financial institutions in Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates, is believed to have been the proceeds of bribery and embezzlement in Venezuela.
The professor has been charged with three counts of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering and could be sentence to 20 years in prison on each count. Prosecutors say they have evidence that suggests the professor was well aware of the source of the funds. The University of Miami has placed the professor on administrative leave pending the outcome of the case.
The media coverage of this case reveals how severe the penalties can be for even nonviolent federal crimes. When presented with facts like these, experienced criminal defense attorneys may urge U.S. attorneys to adopt a more lenient stance by pointing out mitigating factors during plea negotiations. When the parties behind the alleged scheme include organized crime groups and corrupt politicians, attorneys might argue that their clients acted under duress and feared for their safety.