Parkland Woman Pleads Guilty to Money Laundering Conspiracy Charge

A Parkland Florida resident pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Launder Money after admitting to her part in an expansive $8 million illegal gambling setup that used phony corporations, offshore accounts and operated using the Internet and direct telephone call contact.

Michele Lasso-Barraza, 30, a Panamanian national, delivered her plea from Florida via a video feed which was filed in U.S. District Court in Albany, New York. The prosecution alleged that she laundered the proceeds gained from gambling websites that was made available to her; allowing gamblers to place wagers via the Internet. She then transferred the ill-gotten gains, using bogus entities which she created, into bank accounts that were located offshore.

Lasso-Barraza’s role in the case is connected to Philip Gurian, another Florida man who was purportedly linked to the Mafia and was an important operative in the gambling entity which offered online and by phone sports betting from Costa Rica and Panama to its player base which was predominantly made up of residents of the United States. Gurian, 52, of Boca Raton, and Lasso-Barraza were among over thirty persons that were charged last April for their connection to the Panama-based Corporation known as Legends a/k/a Legendz Sports.

The indictment against a total of 23 companies and 34 individuals accused Legendz of offering betting options by credit, as well as maintained accounts known as “post-ups.” Both types of betting methods combined, netted the company profits of over two-billion dollars over the past ten years.

Those named in the indictment face charges of operating an illegal gambling business, racketeering, conspiring to commit money laundering and money laundering. Penalties for these crimes can range from five to twenty years.

The Department of Justice is also pursuing the forfeiture of a minimum of one-billion dollars of tangible assets of the firm which include balances in bank accounts, real estate, vehicles, as well as other monetary holdings of value.

Gurian had previously waived the grand jury indictment and accepted a guilty plea for the charge of conspiracy in association to the role he played in the international sports betting operation.

A charge and conviction for his type of allegation can yield a prison term of up to twenty years behind bars. However under the plea agreement negotiated between Gurian’s attorneys and the government, combined with sentencing guideline calculations that are utilized in federal cases, it is expected that he will be sentenced to two years in prison at a maximum. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 6, 2014
As part of her acceptance of the guilty plea, Lasso-Barraza admitted her participation in the illegal gambling business which was directed by Gurian as well as other individuals that permitted bettors to wager thousands of bets originating from Florida, California, Texas, Indiana Nevada and the District of Columbia. She also confessed to participating in at least $8 million of the laundering of money which was fashioned from the unlawful gaming enterprise that she was a part of on Gurian’s behalf. She then had the currency transported to offshore accounts that were deceptively created and set up by her with locations in Panama, Andorra, and the Cayman Islands.

Lasso-Barraza faces a fine of a half a million USD and up to twenty years in prison for her role in her illicit activities. She is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 28, 2014.

These proceedings are being prosecuted by AUSA Robert A. Sharpe. All charges were the product of a combined investigation introduced by the Albany County Sheriff’s Office and further assisted by the Albany County District Attorney’s Office, as well as the Saratoga District Attorney’s Office in New York. In Florida, the Broward County Money Laundering Task Force is credited with the role they played. Federal law enforcement agencies recognized for their assistance in the case are the FBI and the IRS-Criminal Investigation Division.


Money laundering is the practice of obscuring sources of money gained through illegal methods and/or activities, making it appear that the origin was from a legitimate source.

If you, a friend or family member is facing charges relating to money laundering or any of the other federal crimes listed in this article it is crucial that you secure an experienced criminal defense attorney who is well-versed in these types of prosecutions established by the government.

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