Sneaking Isn’t Laundering: Second Circuit Reverses Money Laundering Conviction for Insufficient Evidence of Intent to Disguise
In United States v. Rodriguez, a panel of the Second Circuit (Judges Katzmann, Walker, and Bolden (D. Conn., sitting by designation)) reversed the conviction of a defendant for money laundering. It concluded that the Government had established only that the defendant, Angelo Rodriguez, had attempted to deliver $300,000 in cash proceeds from sales of cocaine to what turned out to be an undercover agent—but not that the purpose of the transaction was to “to conceal or disguise the nature of . . . the proceeds of specified unlawful activity,” as the money-laundering statute requires. See 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(1)(B)(i). Although the panel acknowledged that the Government had presented evidence that the attempted delivery of cash was covert, it held that the circumstances of the transaction were “equally consistent with the purpose of paying off a drug supplier or purchasing additional drugs, which aims do not entail the intent to conceal required by” the money-laundering statute. In other words, the panel made clear that the mere covert delivery of money in connection with an illicit scheme does not amount to money laundering: the Government must prove that the transaction was specifically intended to disguise the use of the funds for an unlawful purpose.