CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY PLEADS GUILTY TO LAUNDERING OVER $2 MILLION IN DRUG MONEY
BOSTON - Boston criminal defense attorney LAWRENCE M. PERLMUTTER pleaded guilty today to laundering over $2 million in drug money through a restricted bank account for attorneys, known as an Interest on Lawyer’s Trust Account (IOLTA).
Once Perlmutter laundered the money through his IOLTA, he immediately obtained cashier’s checks that were used to bail out defendants facing felony drug charges in Massachusetts state courts. Many of those felony drug defendants, once released on bail with checks from Perlmutter’s IOLTA, failed to appear in court and became fugitives.
Perlmutter pleaded guilty to five felony counts, including money laundering and failing to report large transactions to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), before the Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton. If Judge Gorton accepts the plea agreement, Perlmutter would be sentenced to 66 months in federal prison.
Perlmutter was indicted by a federal grand jury on March 2, 2010, for money laundering offenses. The trial was set to begin on October 11, 2011. Today, however, Perlmutter admitted that he used his restricted account to conceal from authorities that the cash used to bail out the felony drug defendants was proceeds of illegal drug trafficking. In a typical bail transaction, one of Perlmutter’s co-conspirators, Rafael Benzan, called Perlmutter to seek Perlmutter’s assistance with posting bail for a drug defendant. Perlmutter then met Benzan or one of Benzan’s associates either at Benzan’s Roxbury office or at a nearby bank branch, where Perlmutter picked up large sums of cash, typically in a duffel bag, and deposited the cash into his IOLTA. In one such bail transaction in May 2009, Perlmutter received $250,000 in cash from Benzan, over half of which consisted of $20 bills. Perlmutter deposited the cash into his IOLTA, and then immediately withdrew the cash in the form of a cashier’s check that was used to bail out a felony drug defendant. Perlmutter did not actually represent the defendants for whom he was performing these bail transactions.
Also as part of their investigation of this matter, in June 2010, federal agents seized $237,000 in drug-trafficking proceeds that had been posted as bail in various Massachusetts state courts after being laundered by, among others, Perlmutter and his co-conspirators, Secundino Cespedes and Benzan. Cespedes and Benzan have both pleaded guilty to similar federal charges and are awaiting sentencing.
United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz; Steven M. Derr, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration - Boston Field Division; William Offord, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation in Boston; and Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis, made the announcement today. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Zachary R. Hafer and David J. D’Addio of Ortiz’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force.