SCOTUS to hear money-laundering case

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2007
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The Supreme Court of the United States today agreed to take a case out of East Chicago in order to clarify the definition of money laundering.

Federal circuit courts, including the 7th Circuit in Chicago, do not agree on an exact definition and have disagreed about whether it ;s considered money laundering to pay for the operation of a criminal enterprise with the profits of that illegal business. The nation ;s high court will determine whether the ban on the use of "proceeds" of a crime to promote or conceal it - that is, "laundering" the proceeds - applies to the total amount of money or only the profits after expenses.

The U.S. Solicitor General ;s Office in Washington, D.C., filed a petition for writ of certiorari late last year in U.S. v. Efrain Santos and Benedicto Dias, which involves the federal prosecution of an old tavern lottery raid where Santos – known as "Puerto Rican Frankie" – was arrested for running the illegal operation throughout the region from the 1970s to 1994.

Santos was sentenced to 17 years in prison in 1998, but he was later released after the 7th Circuit heard two other cases in 2000 and 2002 and issued rulings that changed the interpretation of money laundering. Following those decisions, U.S. District Judge James Moody in Hammond ruled that Santos ; actions were no longer considered money laundering because of an interpretation of "net proceedings" and "gross proceeds" in federal laws.

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