Pleads Guilty to Financial Reporting Crime in Connection with Laundering
of Drug Money Through Laundromat
STEPHEN J. PLOWMAN, 51, of Medina, Washington, pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to the felony offense of Willful Failure to Report a Currency Transaction in Excess of $10,000. PLOWMAN, who is an attorney practicing civil and criminal law in Washington State, admitted that he received more than $100,000 in cash from a client to purchase a laundromat in the Queen Anne neighborhood in Seattle during 2005, and then willfully failed to file a currency transaction report as required by law documenting his receipt of that cash. The client, since convicted of conspiracy to distribute cocaine, wanted the laundromat as a means to launder drug proceeds. Further, as part of his plea agreement, PLOWMAN admitted that this failure to file the required form was part of a pattern of unlawful conduct, occurring on more than one occasion, during a 12-month period. Under the terms of the plea agreement, PLOWMAN faces a maximum sentence of imprisonment of 10 years, and prospective sentencing guideline range of 18-24 months in prison, when sentenced on January 25, 2007.
According to the plea agreement, STEPHEN PLOWMAN was acting as an attorney for Carlos Ford, a cocaine trafficker, in May of 2005, when Ford expressed a desire to purchase the Queen Anne Maytag Laundry. The negotiated purchase price was more than $150,000. PLOWMAN received two cashier’s checks totaling about $56,000 from Ford towards the purchase price. PLOWMAN deposited these checks in his attorney trust account. Later, PLOWMAN received close to $120,000 cash to pay the balance of the cost of the laundromat and expenses. The cash came from Ford’s cocaine trafficking business and was received by STEPHEN PLOWMAN from Ford at Ford’s residence in West Seattle. STEPHEN PLOWMAN took the money to his law office in Bellevue where he stored it in a safe.
PLOWMAN did not document his receipt of this currency in any way. Further, he willfully failed to file a “Report of Cash Payments Over $10,000 Received in a Trade of Business” (IRS Form 8300) with the Internal Revenue Service, as required by law, documenting his receipt of this currency from Ford. The 8300 Form requires the recipient of the currency who is involved in a trade or business, to report the receipt of the cash, including indicating the identity of the individual from whom the cash was received, the person on whose behalf such transaction was conducted, and describing the transaction. Such information assists the Internal Revenue Service in identifying the illegal movement of money through the U.S. economy and individuals involved in such activity.
On June 29, 2005, STEPHEN PLOWMAN met with the owner of the laundromat to consummate the purchase. At that time, PLOWMAN delivered a check from his trust account for $60,000 for the laundromat, and handed over an additional $100,000 in cash, making the total purchase price for the laundromat $160,000. However, the written purchase and sale agreement documenting the transaction were drafted by PLOWMAN to reflect a sales price of only $60,000. The balance of the cash + about $20,000 + was used for laundromat expenses and for PLOWMAN’s fee.
Carlos Ford was sentenced last month to ten years in prison for his role as a cocaine supplier to others.
"Today's guilty plea by an officer of the court sends a strong message that no one is above the law," said DEA Special Agent in Charge Rodney Benson. "Those who choose to facilitate drug trafficking, letting greed define their actions, face serious consequences under the law."
PLOWMAN is the fourth attorney in the past year to plead guilty to financial crimes in connection to drug trafficking. JAMES L. WHITE, 49, a Seattle, Washington attorney, was sentenced in December 2005, to 18 months in prison for Money Laundering. In a related case, A. MARK VANDERVEEN, 45, a Seattle, Washington attorney, was sentenced to three months in prison and three months of home confinement for Failing to File a Currency Transaction Report as Required by Federal Law. VANDERVEEN was recently ordered to spend an additional 6 days in prison for violating the terms of his supervised release. JOEL S. MANALANG, 37, of Seattle, Washington, pleaded guilty to Money Laundering in August 2006, and is awaiting sentencing.
PLOWMAN was identified as part of the investigation into an organized drug trafficking ring. That investigation was an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation, providing supplemental federal funding to the federal and state agencies involved.
The case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Internal Revenue Service and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Ron Friedman.
For additional information please contact Special Agent Jeffrey Eig at 206-553-1411.