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drug money

Federal Agents Raid Los Angeles Casino for Allegedly Laundering Money, Again

An ongoing investigation against the Bicycle Hotel and Casino in Bell Gardens, a city in Los Angeles, resulted in federal agents raiding the casino and closing the gambling floor this week. Since the warrant issued for the raid by a federal district court judge was filed under seal, there are only a few details about the investigation. However, this same casino was found, after a 1991 investigation, to have been built using drug money. Although numerous gamblers speculated that the raid was a result of rigged gaming tables, unnamed media sources clarified that the casino is under investigation for money laundering. Casino patrons holding stacks of chips will be pleased to know that the casino reopened this week after investigators finished their search. However, there may be some more legal trouble in their future, depending on what the search discovered. What is Money Laundering? The crime of money laundering occurs when a person exchanges illegally obtained money, such as the proceeds from the sale of drugs, stolen goods, or other criminal activities, for "clean" money. Many financial institutions are regulated in such a way that certain transactions are monitored for suspicious activity. However, businesses that operate with modest, or even sometimes large amounts of cash can sometimes fly under the radar of authorities, as we learned in Breaking Bad. Penalties for Money Laundering Money laundering is a relatively common type of white collar crime. Depending on whether charges are brought by federal or state authorities, the penalties for money laundering can vary. State laws tend to mirror federal laws, but vary from state to state. Typically, the penalties will increase with the amount of money laundered as well as the number of transactions. While one-off offenses can result in only misdemeanor charges, simple fines and short jail sentences, multiple money laundering transactions can lead to multiple offenses and felony jail sentences of several years. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) How Stacks of Cash Get People Arrested (FindLaw Blotter) Founder of For-Profit College Gets Prison Time (FindLaw Blotter) Feds Punish NY Corruption: Sheldon Silver Sentenced to 12 Years (FindLaw Blotter)
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I-80 Drug Stops, Seizures Set Off Lawsuits

A Nevada sheriff is taking flak for his practice of stopping suspected drug runners on a rural stretch of Interstate 80 and confiscating their cash. Humboldt County Sheriff Ed Kilgore assured skeptics that the drug stops were not illegal shakedowns but lawful civil forfeitures, reports The Associated Press. Are these I-80 stop-and-seizures in step with the law? Seizing Drug Money Legally Two men have filed lawsuits against Humboldt County in federal court, alleging that deputies made illegal searches and seizures when stopping vehicles along I-80 near Winnemucca, Nevada, reports the AP. The plaintiffs were both out-of-state drivers who had been stopped in Nevada by Humboldt County deputies, who allegedly offered them their freedom in exchange for their cash and weapons. Officers can legally seize money they believe is evidence or the proceeds of criminal activity, but they need to have probable cause. This means Humboldt sheriff's deputies must have reasonable suspicion of criminal activity to stop a vehicle on I-80, and then probable cause to search the vehicle for evidence of a crime before any "drug money" can be seized. In the two lawsuits, the plaintiffs allege there were no arrests made and no drugs found, reports the AP. Without the discovery of illegal drugs or other evidence to arrest the drivers, how could these officers legally keep the cash? Civil Forfeiture Proceedings Once property is legally seized by law enforcement officers -- by warrant, probable cause, and/or community caretaking duties -- it is subject to forfeiture. In criminal forfeiture, a conviction against a defendant is used as evidence that the property was, beyond a reasonable doubt, the instruments or proceeds of a crime. In one drug case, police were forced to return marijuana to an arrestee who was released after the state's pot laws changed. However, even if a suspect isn't charged with a crime, the government can use civil forfeiture proceedings to take money they believe is involved in the drug trade. A person can save his property from forfeiture by providing evidence that the money is lawfully his, and rebutting the government's claims of illegality. It may be difficult, but it isn't impossible. In another notable case, an ex-stripper was successful in retrieving more than $1 million from forfeiture by proving she had made the money via lawful activities (i.e., stripping) and not drug dealing, as troopers had alleged. So while the system seems to favors forfeiture, if the plaintiffs in the I-80 drug stop lawsuits can prove their seized cash is legit, they should be able to get it back. Related Resources: I-80 drug stops: Rural Nevada sheriff defends tactics (Examiner.com) Property Seizure in the War on Drugs (FindLaw's Blotter) Show Him the Money: Standing to Challenge Forfeiture of Drug Cash (FindLaw's U.S. First Circuit Blog) Crime Pays, But Criminals Must Repay Everything in Forfeiture (FindLaw's U.S. Eleventh Circuit Blog)
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