White-Collar Crime

Lawyer in $1.7M Case Used Trust Account to Launder Money, Feds Say

A Boston-area criminal defense lawyer has been federally charged in a money-laundering case, accused of conspiring with another defendant to conceal the source of $1.7 million in illegal drug-trafficking proceeds over a four-year period starting in 2006.

The co-defendant, Secundino Cespedes, and Rafael Benzan, a Massachusetts business owner who reportedly participated in a federal sting operation against attorney Lawrence Perlmutter, allegedly obtained money from drug dealers’ associates that the 50-year-old defense lawyer is accused of laundering through a client trust account, reports the Boston Globe.

Perlmutter is accused of depositing drug-trafficking proceeds in small amounts in a client trust account and then using cashier’s checks drawn on the account to bail out defendants in various Massachusetts state-court drug cases, according to the Globe and the Daily News Tribune.

Perlmutter was not acting as defense counsel for the individuals for whom he allegedly arranged to post this bail, the Globe reports, relying on an affidavit in the case.

He was arrested outside a Bank of America branch after allegedly obtaining a $100,000 cashier’s check for a purported bail payment requested by Benzan, the Globe reports. However, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency had provided the money to Benzan as part of a sting operation, the newspaper says.

Perlmutter is also charged with failing to file a required Internal Revenue Service form for reporting cash payments of over $10,000, the News Tribune states. And the Globe says the complaint in the case accuses Perlmutter of failing to file Form 1040 federal tax returns between 2002 and 2007.

He did not immediately respond to requests from both newspapers for comment. The Globe says that his public defender, Ian Gold, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

If convicted, Perlmutter could be sentenced to as many as 20 years in prison and fined up to $3.5 million.

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