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United States v. Campbell

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Defendant, a real estate agent, assisted Lawing a drug dealer with securing a residence. Multiple times, Lawing presented Defendant with a large amount of cash and appeared to the meetings with expensive cars.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    A defendant must know that the funds involved in a transaction are the proceeds of an illegal activity and that the transaction is designed to disguise the nature of the proceeds to have the requisite knowledge to be convicted of money laundering.

    Facts.

    Ellen Campbell, Defendant, a licensed real estate agent was working at Lake Norman Realty when Mark Lawing, a drug dealer, decided to buy a house with Lake Norman Realty. Lawing, driving his red Porsche or gold Porsche, met with Campbell multiple times to houses, during a five week period. Additionally, Lawing and Campbell had multiple phone conversations. Lawing told Campbell that he was an owner of a legitimate business, L & N Autocraft, which allegedly performed automobile service. At one point, Lawing brought a suitcase filled with $20,000 in cash to show Campbell his ability to purchase the house. Later, Lawing decided to settle on a house for $191,000 owned by Edward and Nancy Guy Fortier. Sara Fox, from Lake Norman Realty, was the listed real estate agent for that residence, so Lawing began to work with Fox. The Fortier’s and Lawing agreed on a price of $182,500 and entered into the written contract. Because Lawing was unable to secure a loan for the property, he told the Fortiers to accept $60,000 in cash, under the table, and to lower the contract price to $122,500. The Fortiers agreed. At closing, Lawing brought the $60,000 in small bundles in a brown paper grocery bag. Additionally, Lawing tipped box Fox and Campbell with a “couple of hundred dollars.â€Â  After closing, Campbell was indicted for money laundering in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956 (a)(1)(B)(i) and found guilty by a jury.  After the verdict, the district court granted Campbell’s motion for judgment of acquittal, and the Government appealed.

    Issue.

    Whether, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the government, any rational trier of fact could have found the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

    Held.

    Yes, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the government, any rational trier of fact could have found the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

    Discussion.

    The court agrees that there was sufficient evidence for the jury to find that Defendant conducted a financial transaction with Lawing’s illegal drug proceedings. However, the court inquires further into whether Defendant knew the proceeds were derived from illegal activity and the transaction was designed to disguise the nature of the proceeds. Here, the court must evaluate Defendant’s subjective knowledge, not motivations. The record indicates that Defendant did not act with the purpose to conceal the drug proceeds. Rather, her motive was simply to close the real estate deal.  On the other hand, Defendant should have been aware that the money was drug related based on Lawing’s behavior with her. Additionally, Fox, her coworker, even told Defendant that the funds “may have ben drug money.†Therefore, a reasonable jury could conclude that Defendant was engaged in money laundering.


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