Money laundering is a legal term describing a process of disguising the origins of proceeds obtained by illegal activity to appear to have been derived from a legitimate source.
Some of the methods used to achieve these means can be extensive as is the case in this article. The fact that the original method that was used was so involved, time consuming and costly is what ultimately led to the arrest and warrants for its participants, according to prosecutors.
It was a precedent setting event when Miami prosecutors charged Oscar L. Sanchez, 47, the owner of a check-cashing store located in Naples Florida, with the laundering of millions of dollars which found its way to Cuba relating to a Medicare money laundering ring last summer. The case was the first of its kind where authorities were able to connect swindled healthcare proceeds originating in the United States moving into Cuba’s state-controlled banking system
Earlier this month, without any apparent uproar, the convicted money launderer was sentenced by a Miami federal judge to a prison term of 4 and one half years. The terms of his sentence will also include serving one additional year of home detention after his release as well as his surrender of approximately a half-million dollars in assets to the government. He will also have to complete 1,600 hours of community service. His prison sentence is set to begin on June 15 upon his voluntary surrender.
Sanchez’s original sentence was reduced by U.S. District Judge Paul Huck by 40 percent based on prosecutor Ron Davidson’s suggestion that he assisted authorities in bringing money-laundering and Medicare fraud charges against three other accused accomplices.
A Cuban-born U.S. citizen, Sanchez was indicted on a single conspiracy charge of performing a central role in laundering the proceeds of seventy medical facilities based in South Florida who were deceptively billing the Medicare system for almost $375 million and received in excess of $70 million. He was personally held blamable for about $10 million of that laundered total when he pleaded guilty in late August of last year.
During his interrogation, it became evident that Sanchez was only a small player in a much larger operation and not the architect, as was first believed after his arrest.
Through Sanchez’s cooperation, the prosecution disclosed that he admitted that he worked together with a so called currency exchange entrepreneur who allegedly played the principal role in the scheme. He then exposed an offshore company by name of Caribbean Transfers. This turned out to be the company that bankrolled the intricate money-laundering organization that relocated more than $30 million in pilfered Medicare payments that originated in South Florida and was moved into Cuban banks.
Acting on Sanchez’s information, prosecutors filed conspiracy charges against Jorge Emilio Perez, the creator of Caribbean Transfers, and two South Florida men, Felipe Ruiz and Kirian Vega. They were both charged with laundering Medicare payments through Sanchez, who did business with the company founded by Perez. Perez is presently at large.
Ruiz, 38, owned two medical equipment businesses in Miami; incorporated under other persons’ names. He was recently denied bail because a judge believed him to be a flight risk and was afraid he would take flight to Cuba or another country of close proximity in the Caribbean.
Vega, 35, who was the owner of a Miami pharmacy has already pleaded guilty to the charge and has been sentenced to three years in prison. The ownership of Vega’s pharmacy which also sold medical supplies was similarly listed under another person’s name.
Prosecutor Davidson said during Ruiz’s bond hearing back in October, “They used Oscar Sanchez as a middle man.”
The Prosecutor dubbed Caribbean Transfers as an illegal sort of “Western Union” for monetary transfers. Their website says that it focuses in remittance services to the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and other countries in the Caribbean.
The FBI along with agents from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Federal Health and Human Services department which investigated the Sanchez case, suspect that Perez, the mastermind of the illicit enterprise is currently hiding in the Dominican Republic.
According to court records as part of the money-laundering complex, Sanchez worked together with Perez and his companions who worked at Caribbean Transfers. The business organized shell companies that had bank accounts in Trinidad and Canada. Hindered by U.S. limitations on transmittals from the U.S. to Cuba, Caribbean Transfers, sought to transport millions of dollars to the Island nation.
They had purchased in excess of twenty cartons of money orders, transporting them in amounts of less than $10,000 which enabled them to avoid declaring their actual source. U.S. law requires that any transfer in excess of $10,000 being brought in or out of the country be declared on a customs form. According to court records the company used various aliases when conducting business, one of them being Bill Clinton.
As previously mentioned this was an involved, time consuming and costly operation with many countries and persons involved until Sanchez became a part of it, making it a much easier entity to operate.
As written in court documentation, Davidson wrote “Benefitting both sides of the transactions, [Sanchez] was a financier for fraudsters and a capitalist for the Cuban banks,”
Sanchez received a percentage of 1 to 1.5 percent for matching up the two parties. One of them, headed by Caribbean Transfers delivered millions of dollars in available cash which were then produced by Cuban exiles’ remittances to the Medicare fraud ringleaders.
Records display that those alleged lawbreakers, subsequently, wired money, drawn from their South Florida commercial bank accounts or sent checks to the other’s shell companies in Canada. Those dirtied proceeds were then conveyed by Caribbean Transfers as settlements to Cubans living on the island. A shell company is a company that exists but does not actually do any business or have any assets.
“Through this process, [Perez] and his associates successfully moved millions of dollars of cash from the United States to Cuba without detection by U.S. law enforcement,” wrote Davidson.
Davidson along with fellow prosecutor Eloisa Delgado Fernandez worked on the case that led to the arrests and convictions.
To read the FBI press release dealing with this article click here
The consequences of a conviction for money-laundering can be severe and can include a term of extended incarceration. It is absolutely crucial that if a person is charged with the crime of money laundering, to directly contact a defense attorney, with experience in defending this type of crime to properly handle the case and apply a proper defense.
If you or someone you know or love is being investigated in connection with a money-laundering charge by the FBI or any other Federal agency it is imperative that you get in touch with a qualified attorney with experience in Federal cases. An attorney who previously worked as a Federal prosecutor and knows the ins and outs of the Federal system can be a great asset in planning a proper defense no matter what Federal charges are being considered.
Mr. Cohen is a board certified criminal trial lawyer rated AV by Martindale Hubbel (pre-eminent) and a “Super Lawyer” recognized as being in the top 5% of his specialized field (criminal trial law) among Florida lawyers. He is considered a specialist by the Florida Bar in his field. Mr. Cohen has tried scores of cases over his 35 year career and is a member of the Florida and New York Bars. He practices in Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Miami, among other counties. He is also admitted to practice in the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh and Second Circuit.
Mr. Cohen’s practice has recently expanded and he is now a partner in the prestigious law firm of McLaughlin & Stern, LLP. Through this partnership, Mr. Cohen can now lead your defense in the New York Metropolitan area in addition to the Broward, Dade, or Palm Beach County areas as well as all other jurisdictions throughout the state of Florida
Mr. Cohen is also listed in the 2013 edition of “Best Lawyers in America“.