Western District of Washington

January 26, 2007

Used Cash from Drug Dealer to Purchase Laundromat to Launder Drug Money

STEPHEN J. PLOWMAN, 51, of Bellevue, Washington, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 18 months in prison, a $4,000 fine and three years of supervised release for Willful Failure to Report a Currency Transaction in Excess of $10,000. PLOWMAN, an attorney, admitted that he received more than $100,000 in cash from a client to purchase a laundromat in the Queen Anne neighborhood in Seattle during 2005, and then willfully failed to file a currency transaction report as required by law documenting his receipt of that cash. The client, since convicted of conspiracy to distribute cocaine, wanted the laundromat as a means to launder drug proceeds. At Sentencing U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez told PLOWMAN “For the life of me I can’t see how anyone, let alone an attorney, could not have realized this was ill gotten gain.”

PLOWMAN pleaded guilty October 12, 2006, admitting as part of his plea agreement that his failure to file the currency transaction report was part of a pattern of unlawful conduct, occurring on more than one occasion, during a 12-month period. According to the plea agreement, STEPHEN PLOWMAN was acting as an attorney for Carlos Ford, a cocaine trafficker, in May of 2005, when Ford wanted to purchase the Queen Anne Maytag Laundry. The negotiated purchase price was more than $150,000. PLOWMAN received two cashier’s checks totaling about $56,000 from Ford towards the purchase price. PLOWMAN deposited these checks in his attorney trust account. Later, PLOWMAN received close to $120,000 cash to pay the balance of the cost of the laundromat and expenses. The cash came from Ford’s cocaine trafficking business and was received by STEPHEN PLOWMAN from Ford at Ford’s residence in paper bags. STEPHEN PLOWMAN then took the money to his law office in Bellevue where he stored it in a safe.

PLOWMAN did not document his receipt of this currency in any way. Further, he 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, as required by law, documenting his receipt of this currency from Ford. The 8300 Form requires the recipient of the currency who is involved in a trade or business, to report the receipt of the cash, including indicating the identity of the individual from whom the cash was received, the person on whose behalf such transaction was conducted, and describing the transaction. Such information assists the Internal Revenue Service in identifying the illegal movement of money through the U.S. economy and individuals involved in such activity.

On June 29, 2005, STEPHEN PLOWMAN met with the owner of the laundromat to consummate the purchase. At that time, PLOWMAN delivered a check from his trust account for $60,000 for the laundromat, and handed over an additional $100,000 in cash, making the total purchase price for the laundromat $160,000. However, the written purchase and sale agreement documenting the transaction were drafted by PLOWMAN to reflect a sales price of only $60,000. The balance of the cash – about $20,000 – was used for laundromat expenses and for PLOWMAN’s fee.

Judge Martinez said that PLOWMAN’s criminal conduct enabled the drug trade, damaging users, their families, neighborhoods and communities. PLOWMAN’s supporters had written more than sixty letters praising his good work in the community. Judge Martinez said “the man I see reflected in those letters would not have facilitated a drug dealer like Carlos Ford to sell his poison on the street..... Others need to understand that these crimes cannot be committed by someone with your intelligence, education and sophistication.”

PLOWMAN is the fourth attorney in the past year to plead guilty to financial crimes in connection to drug trafficking. JAMES L. WHITE, 49, a Seattle, Washington attorney, 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 six months of home confinement for Failing to File a Currency Transaction Report as Required by Federal Law. JOEL S. MANALANG, 37, of Seattle, Washington, pleaded guilty to Money Laundering and was sentenced in November 2005, to 18 months in prison.

Carlos Ford, the cocaine distributor, was sentenced in September 2005, to ten years in prison.

PLOWMAN was identified as part of the investigation into an organized drug trafficking ring. That investigation was an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation, providing supplemental federal funding to the federal and state agencies involved.
The case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, and was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Ron Friedman and Richard Cohen.

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