In U.S. v. Elso, No. 04-13043 (Sept. 2, 2005), the Court (Barkett, Marcus & George b.d.) the Court affirmed money laundering convictions against a lawyer charged with laundering the drug proceeds of one of his clients. Elso went to his client’s home to pick up cash and was apprehended driving away, with the cash.
Elso was charged with violating 18 U.S.C. §§ 1956(a)(1)(B)(i) & (ii) & § 1956(h). This provision criminalizes transactions designed to conceal the location of the proceeds of unlawful activity. Elso noted that another money laundering statute, § 1957, creates an exemption for "monetary transactions" which involve the payment of attorneys’ fees, and argued that this exemption applied to § 1956 charges, and that the jury should have been so instructed. The Court rejected this argument, noting that the two statutes are worded differently. In addition, Elso was in effect asking for an instruction that he should not be convicted if he lacked the mens rea for the crime, and the Court found that the court’s instructions adequately informed the jury of this.
The Court also rejected the argument that simply picking up cash did not constitute a money laundering "transaction." "Elso’s actions of retrieving [the client’s] money from a safe in [his] home, placing it in his car, and driving away constituted a transfer, and therefore qualified as a ‘transaction.’"