Philadelphia Attorney Hope C. Lefeber Wins “Not Guilty” Verdict For Client

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A federal jury in Philadelphia found a client of Hope C. Lefeber not guilty on all counts in a multi-count money-laundering and tax structuring indictment.


-- A federal jury found the defendant, a 60 year-old owner of a United Check Cashing franchise, not guilty on all counts of a multi-count indictment charging money laundering and tax structuring in violation of 18 U.S.C. §1956 and 31 U.S.C. §5354. The federal charges were the result of a 2 ½ year intensive sting operation by the Department of Homeland Security and a government informant. United States v. Wilbur Ross, Criminal No. 12-285 (E.D. Pa. April, 2013).

According to court documents, the investigation was initiated based on the informant’s allegations that the defendant laundered money for Jamaican drug activities. During trial, presided by the Honorable Juan Sanchez, Ms. Lefeber proved that the government had no basis for launching and pursuing the investigation and argued that her client was the victim of entrapment. The government’s investigation and IRS audits produced no evidence connecting the defendant to any Jamaican drug dealers or any individuals engaged in criminal activities. Ms. Lefeber proved that her client had no predisposition to commit the crimes charged and that the government induced the crimes – a classic entrapment defense.

Ms. Lefeber presented evidence that the federal informant, a convicted drug dealer, who was deceased at the time of trial and unable to testify, was unemployed at all times during the investigation and made a living solely by supplying information to the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”). Court documents show that the informant received over $133,000 in payments from the government. This case involved complicated Sixth Amendment issues relating to the right to confrontation of witnesses due to the fact that the informant and an employee of the defendant were both deceased.

Throughout the course of the 2 ½ year investigation, the informant visited the defendant’s store over 28 times, attempting to use multiple false identifications and tactics to entice the defendant and the store’s employees to break protocol. Recorded conversations presented at trial showed the defendant at times refusing to service the informant when he attempted to initiate transactions and also filing Suspicious Activity Reports (“SAR”) and Currency Transaction Reports (“CTR”). The false identifications used in this operation, as well as over $20,000 in tip money were supplied by the federal government. Ms. Lefeber argued that the “payment for information” by the government motivated the informant to continually return the store.

Attorney Hope Lefeber presented evidence that her client filed several Suspicious Activity Reports regarding the informant, and filed the required Currency Transaction Reports with the U.S. Treasury Department. The government contended that the Suspicious Activity Reports were missing descriptive narratives by the defendant and were therefore inadequate. Under cross-examination by Ms. Lefeber, an expert from the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”) of the United States Treasury Department testified that the absence of a narrative is one of the most common errors in filing the reports, and conceded that the defendant’s actions were not even a technical violation of the Treasury Department’s reporting requirements, and certainly did not constitute a crime.

Ms. Lefeber presented multiple character witnesses on behalf of the defendant, who had no prior arrests or convictions, and has complied with all federal, state and local rules as well as professional regulations, including the Bank Secrecy Act. Each witness depicted the defendant as an upstanding professional and family man, who cared for his ailing mother-in-law following the death of his wife.

Following the week-long trial, the jury acquitted Ms. Lefeber’s client on all counts of the indictment.

Hope C. Lefeber is a practicing federal criminal defense attorney and a member of Federal Bar Association. She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Rutgers University School of Law, and is a member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Ms. Lefeber specializes in white collar crimes, drug crimes and appeals and is the owner and Managing Member of her Philadelphia-based law firm, Hope C. Lefeber, LLC.

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