College Park Lawyer Indicted For Money Laundering, Witness Tampering, and Tax Offenses
Maryland Lawyer Allegedly Turned to Crime
Greenbelt, Maryland - A federal grand jury indicted Walter Lloyd Blair, age 57, of Brookeville, Maryland, on charges of money laundering, witness tampering, obstruction of justice and failure to file tax returns in connection, announced United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein. The indictment was returned on November 5, 2008 and unsealed today upon the arrest of the defendant.
“Lawyers are supposed to help people comply with the law, not help them find ways to violate it,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. “The indictment alleges that Walter Blair first advised his ‘clients’ about how to conceal drug proceeds, then Mr. Blair helped himself to some of the money. The indictment also alleges that Mr. Blair obstructed justice by advising people to lie to the FBI, and that he failed to file income tax returns.”
“IRS-Criminal Investigation is committed to aggressively pursuing those taxpayers who willfully fail to file tax returns,” stated C. Andre’ Martin, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation.
According to the 14 count indictment, from at least 2002 to 2005 Blair, practiced law in Maryland, maintaining offices in College Park and Washington, D.C. At some time between August and October 2003, a drug dealer from Richmond, Virginia, provided a distant relative residing in Germantown, Maryland (relative A), with a safe containing tens of thousands of dollars in proceeds from the sale of drugs, to maintain in her household. On October 25, 2003, the drug dealer’s girlfriend was found dead from a gunshot wound to the head. The drug dealer and his girlfriend’s minor son were initially missing, but were later also found dead.
According to the indictment, after learning of the drug dealer’s disappearance and his girlfriend’s killing, on November 3, 2003, relative A and a colleague met Blair at his office in Maryland to seek legal advice in connection with the drug dealer’s safe, among other things. After learning about the circumstances surrounding the drug money in the safe, Blair directed relative A to retrieve the contents of the safe, which relative A delivered in a duffel bag to Blair at his College Park office. Blair counted and initially retained the contents of the duffel bag – tens of thousands of dollars, packaged in individual stacks wrapped in rubber bands. In an attempt to conceal the true nature of the drug proceeds, Blair created a false story about its ownership and source, which he explained to relative A and her colleague. Blair further advised that he would assist relative A to use the funds to purchase real estate and to use the money to pay for lawyers for the drug dealer’s associates, including himself. Blair did not file the required IRS form to report the receipt of more than $10,000 in currency in connection with his law practice.
The indictment alleges that Blair directed another lawyer in his office to form a corporation to be controlled by relative A and used to purchase real estate with the funds from the safe. On or about November 7, 2003, Blair and relative A opened an account at SunTrust bank in the name of “Blair and Associates LLC for Jay Paul Property Management,” depositing $6,000 in cash from the safe into the SunTrust account, and keeping $1,000 in cash.
According to the indictment, Blair contacted a mortgage broker and provided him with $9,000 in cash from the safe to assist relative A in purchasing real estate, concealing from the broker the source of the funds. On November 7, 2003, relative A and the broker opened an account at BB&T Bank in relative A’s name (the BB&T account), into which they deposited the $9,000 Blair provided to the broker. On November 11, 2003, Blair provided the broker with an additional $31,000 in cash from the safe to be used to purchase real estate for relative A. From late November 2003 to January 2004, relative A purchased property in Washington D.C. and in Emmitsburg, Maryland, writing checks totaling more than $19,000 from the BB&T account to purchase the properties. The broker continued to deposit money into the BB&T account, depositing an additional $24,000 from November 2003 to April 2004.
The indictment alleges that Blair used money from the safe to pay lawyers, including himself, representing the drug dealer’s associates in a federal case in the Eastern District of Virginia. Specifically, the indictment alleges that on November 12, 2003, Blair used $20,000 of the drug dealer’s money to purchase two bank checks of $10,000 each for two lawyers representing the drug dealer’s associates and deposited $10,000 for himself into his firm’s client trust account. In December 2003, Blair purchased two bank checks payable to a lawyer representing one of the drug dealer’s associates using some funds from the safe and wrote himself a check for $4,000 from the trust account for his legal services to the drug dealer’s associate.
In addition to alleging that Blair laundered drug proceeds, the indictment also alleges that he tampered with a potential witness. According to the indictment, on November 12, 2003, a Special Agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation contacted relative A to conduct an interview regarding her knowledge of matters relating to the drug conspiracy, including the whereabouts of the girlfriend’s minor son. The indictment alleges that Blair advised relative A not to tell the FBI about the drug dealer’s cash from the safe, and that if the FBI asked about the money, to provide false information.
The indictment also charges that Blair endeavored to obstruct the due administration of justice in Virginia by concealing prior occasions when he was charged with obstruction of justice and intimidating witnesses. The indictment alleges that to secure permission to represent the drug dealer’s associate in Virginia, Blair represented to the Virginia court that he had not been reprimanded in any court and that there had not been any action in any court pertaining to his conduct or fitness as a member of the bar. In fact, in connection with his practice of law, Blair had been reprimanded for obstructing justice by the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia, and had been charged with intimidating witnesses in a criminal action in West Virginia.
Finally, Blair is charged with failing to file federal tax returns for tax years 2002 through 2004. The government is also seeking forfeiture of Blair’s home and office in Brookeville and College Park, Maryland, respectively, in lieu of the cash that was the proceeds of these unlawful activities.
Blair faces a maximum sentence of: 20 years in prison for each money laundering charge; 10 years in prison for the witness tampering charge; 10 years in prison for the obstruction of justice charge; and one year in prison for each charge of failure to file a tax return. Blair is scheduled to have his initial appearance in federal district court at 4:00 p.m. today.
An indictment is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein thanked the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation for their investigative work. Mr. Rosenstein commended Assistant United States Attorneys Michael Pauze and Jonathan Su, who are prosecuting the case.