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United States v. Corchado-Peralta

    Brief Fact Summary.

    From 1987 to 1996, Ubaldo Rivera Colon smuggled over 150 kilogram of cocaine into Puerto Rico, obtaining about $4 million, and, thereafter, laundered through multiple investments and purchases. Colon’s wife, Elena Corchado Peralta, Defendant, and two associates, were indicted and tried together for co-conspiracy with Colon to launder money. Additionally, Defendant was also indicted with one count of bank fraud. Defendant appealed alleging that the evidence was insufficient to support a conviction.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    To conceal of disguise the nature of an illegal proceed in a money laundering charge, there must be some action by the defendant to indicate its concealment in the expenditure.

    Facts.

    Defendant met Colon in the early 1990s and got married in 1994. Defendant, at that time, was a student and a part time employee of a jewelry store. Currently, Defendant has a college degree in business associations. Colon testified that he held himself out to be a legitimate business man to his wife, and his wife never knew about his drug smuggling or money laundering schemes. Defendant performed many deposits and expenditures with Colon’s drug proceeds, such as writing and endorsing checks to purchase expensive cars, boats, real estate, and personal services, at Colon’s direction. Additionally, Defendant would make monthly payments to American Express; one time which she paid $18,384 in a single monthly payment. Overall, Defendant signed the majority of 253 checks, which contained a many hundreds of thousands of dollars of purchases. Likewise, Defendant signed tax records, which indicated that she knew her husbands legitimate business’ income was far less than the amount she was handling, only $12,390. At the end of the trial, the jury found Defendant guilty of co-conspiracy of money laundering and bank fraud. Defendant appeals.

    Issue.

    Whether a reasonable jury could find that Defendant is guilty of conspiracy to money launder.

    Held.

    No, a reasonable jury could find that Defendant is guilty of conspiracy to money launder.

    Discussion.

    The State must prove that Defendant knew that the property represented proceeds of drug dealings and the transaction was designed to conceal disguise of the illegal nature of the proceeds. Here, a reasonable jury could find that Defendant knew or should have known the property represented proceeds of a illegal business because Defendant, an educated person who was involved in family book keeping, saw Colon’s tax records which indicated his legitimate business income was substantially lower than the money he actually had. Nevertheless, it is much harder for the government to prove that Defendant under such transaction for her husband with the knowledge that her husband designed to conceal of disguise the illegal proceeds. In this case, there is no evidence that the purchases were done in a manner to conceal or disguise the activity.  The proceeds were not buried in a garden, readily concealable, acquired in someone’s name, nor away in a foreign repository. Therefore, based on the evidence, a reasonable jury could not find that Defendant is guilty of conspiracy to money launder.


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