Money laundering: Relatives, cars and the willful blindness defence
25 Jan 2018

Stefan Cassella of Asset Forfeiture Law, LLC summarises a recent case in which a woman bought vehicles in her own name using money provided by her brother. She indicated that she did not know that the money was laundered.


Money Laundering Conspiracy / Concealment / Knowledge / Willful Blindness Sister of drug dealer is convicted of conspiring to launder his money by using it to buy cars in her name.

Circumstantial evidence of the defendant’s knowledge of the source of the money and the intent to conceal it can include the family relationship and the convoluted transactions that had no legitimate purpose.


United States v. White, ___ Fed. Appx. ___, 2017 WL 6209614 (6th Cir. Dec. 8, 2017).


Sixth Circuit * Defendant played a minor role in her brother’s money laundering and drug trafficking conspiracy. On numerous occasions, she bought a vehicle in her own name using money provided by her brother, or sold a vehicle for her brother after first titling it in her name. She was convicted of conspiracy to commit concealment money laundering in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(1)(B)(i) and appealed.

Defendant argued that there was insufficient evidence that she either knew that the source of her brother’s money was some form of unlawful activity, or that she knew the purpose of the financial transactions was to conceal or disguise the proceeds of such activity. But the panel held that there was sufficient circumstantial evidence on both points.

Among other things, the panel pointed to Defendant’s lifelong relationship with her brother, her awareness that he lived a lavish lifestyle without any gainful employment, and her willingness to make false statements to the car dealers and insurance companies regarding the true ownership of the vehicles, and to engage in convoluted transactions involving the movement of money in and out of her bank account that had no legitimate purpose.

From this, the panel said, the jury was entitled to infer that Defendant either knew or was willfully blind to the illegal source of her brother’s money, and was “at least tacitly aware” that the purpose of the transactions was to conceal or disguise it. Defendant noted that neither she nor her brother made any effort to conceal their identities from any of the car dealers with whom they did business, but panel was unimpressed.

Concealment money laundering, the court said, can involve the concealment of the ownership and control of illegally-derived money even though the identity of the person conducting a particular transaction is not disguised. So the conviction for conspiring to commit concealment money laundering was affirmed. SDC


Stefan Cassella, Asset Forfeiture Law, LLC


Photo – Mikes Photos. Please note: this picture is only a sample image and not a photograph of the vehicles that are mentioned in the above article.


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