News and Press Releases

Took Drug Money from Cocaine Traffickers to Invest in Real Estate

November 21, 2006

JOEL MANALANG, 37, a Seattle, Washington attorney was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 18 months in prison, two years of supervised release and a $6,000 fine for Money Laundering. At sentencing, U.S. District Judge Ricardo Martinez said, “Warnings that were given were not heeded by Mr. Manalang.... As a result of that error in judgement he will suffer quite a bit.”

MANALANG was a real estate attorney who operated an escrow business. Court papers allege that during 2003 and 2005, MANALANG received large quantities of cash from clients under circumstances indicating to MANALANG that the money was derived from drug trafficking. The money was received by MANALANG in shoe boxes and duffle bags. MANALANG thereafter engaged in financial transactions with these monies assisting drug traffickers in the acquisition of real estate. On one occasion, MANALANG stored several hundred thousand dollars cash in his residence, before returning it to others. MANALANG pleaded guilty on August 1, 2006 and acknowledged that he knew the funds were derived from criminal activity, and that his actions were intended to conceal the true nature of the funds and from whom they were obtained, and to evade currency reporting requirements imposed by law.

Writing to the court, Assistant United States Attorney Ron Friedman noted that MANALANG had been warned by law enforcement about laundering the proceeds of crime: “What makes his situation most difficult to understand is that law enforcement visited him during 2005, prior to his commission of this criminal conduct, and warned him regarding such activities. Those warnings were not heeded...” Friedman noted that MANALANG will now lose his career as an attorney and real estate broker.

MANALANG told Judge Martinez, “My desire to be successful and have my family and friends be proud of me led me to ignore warning signs.”

MANALANG is one of four attorneys in the past year to plead guilty to financial crimes in connection to drug trafficking. JAMES L. WHITE, 49, a Seattle, Washington attorney and Municipal Court Judge, 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. STEPHEN J. PLOWMAN, 51, of Bellevue, Washington pleaded guilty last month to Failing to Report Cash Transactions in excess of $10,000. He will be sentenced on January 25, 2007.

This was an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation, providing supplemental federal funding to the federal and state agencies involved. This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations (IRS-CI). The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Ron Friedman and Susan Roe.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office at (206) 553-4110.

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