News and Press Releases

Men secretly accepted money from drug organization

December 2, 2005

JAMES L. WHITE, 49, a Seattle, Washington attorney, was sentenced to 18 months in prison today in U.S. District Court in Seattle for Money Laundering, in violation of federal law. 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.

At his sentencing hearing today, Judge Ricardo S. Martinez told WHITE his behavior was "extremely troubling.... You committed numerous violations of your ethical duties as an attorney and a judge."

During 2005, JAMES L. WHITE, a practicing attorney, was visited in his law office by a client who delivered to WHITE $100,000 cash in a backpack, which WHITE knew constituted proceeds from the distribution of drugs. The currency was packaged in bundles held together by rubber bands. Rather than deposit the money in a bank account which would have triggered a federal currency reporting requirement, WHITE took the money to his home where he kept it hidden. No law office records were created to document the receipt of cash, and no receipt was provided to the client. WHITE spent the money on a variety of things including trips to India and Figi.

In asking for a prison term, Assistant United States Attorney Ron Friedman noted that WHITE had surveilled one member of the drug conspiracy and arranged a polygraph exam to try to locate $1 million in missing marijuana. The activities, wrote Friedman, are "wholly at odds with his professional responsibilities, and have nothing to do with the meaningful representation of a client – – any client."

During March 2005, WHITE met with attorney A. MARK VANDERVEEN on two occasions, and delivered to VANDERVEEN stacks of cash removed from the backpack totaling approximately $20,000 U.S. currency. WHITE delivered the cash to VANDERVEEN in a parking lot and later by leaving it in a paper bag at the Edmonds Courthouse. The cash was provided to VANDERVEEN as a retainer for VANDERVEEN to represent another individual then being investigated by federal authorities for participation in drug trafficking. VANDERVEEN 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, a violation of federal law.

VANDERVEEN also participated in the surveillance and attempted polygraph – activities prosecutors call "deeply disturbing." As Friedman wrote to the court, "The polygraph had absolutely nothing to do with the fair and zealous representation of one's client. Rather, it had only to do with assisting a criminal organization by helping it figure out who had taken some of its product, and in determining whether one of its members might be working with the Government."

In sentencing both men, Judge Martinez noted that they were "intelligent, educated, sophisticated attorneys who should have known better." The Judge said he was particularly offended by WHITE's second payment to VANDERVEEN which "was left in a paper bag on the judge's chair in the Edmonds Courthouse. A place where Mr. Vanderveen would come and put on judicial robes and mete out justice."

Judge Martinez said he considered going above the guidelines range for both men and in fact sentenced VANDERVEEN to a longer term than the one sought by prosecutors.

Law enforcement leaders were pleased with the successful conclusion to the case.

"ICE is committed to using our law enforcement authorities to dismantle the methods criminals use to earn, move and store illicit funds," said Leigh Winchell, ICE Special Agent in Charge for investigations in Seattle. "Our goal, as the primary investigative agency in the Department of Homeland Security, is to disrupt and deter activities that pose a threat to our nation' s welfare and public safety."

Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge Rodney Benson stated, "The DEA will continue to target the lifeblood of drug trafficking organizations – their money. As this case illustrates, those who are entrusted with the care of the law are not above the law."

"The duty to file a Form 8300 when receiving, in the course of conducting a trade or business, cash in excess of $10,000 in one transaction, or in two or more related transactions, applies to lawyers as much as it does to merchants, realtors, car dealers and the like," said Sherree W. Preston, IRS Special Agent in Charge for Washington. "No person or business subject to this law is exempt. This case helps demonstrate why the cash reporting and money laundering laws were enacted relative to narcotics related crimes, where concealing the source and nature of the illegally obtained funds is the goal."

This case was investigated by the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CID), and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Ronald Friedman and Susan Roe. For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney's Office, Western District of Washington, at (206) 553-4110.

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