In the fall of 2009, attorney Patrick Robert Simon was approached by a man who needed some financial planning advice. The man was making a healthy living, by trafficking illegal drugs, but was prepping for an extended stay in prison, for trafficking illegal drugs. Call it an occupational hazard.
The man had the cash to make sure his family was provided for while he was locked up, but it was drug money. The Feds would seize if they caught wind of it, so he needed a way to make it seem like it was legit income.
As Simon would discover at some point between that initial meeting and Monday morning, when he was charged with one count of money laundering, the drug trafficker was acting as a confidential informant for the federal government.
Simon didn't know that at the time. Otherwise he probably wouldn't have sketched out several strategies for laundering large amounts of cash and told how much he would charge to do each.
At their second meeting, on January 27, 2010, the informant brought along another individual whose supposed relationship isn't spelled out in the criminal case against Simon but who was actually an undercover federal agent. Simon balked at doing business in the presence of an outside party, saying it would complicate matters and affect attorney-client privilege, but eventually relented. The three of them agreed that Simon would set up a front corporation through which the drug profits could be funneled.
Later, Simon described how the informant might actually transfer $100,000 in cash. The informant could either drive the money to Florida (it's not clear from court documents why it had to be Florida) and give it to the undercover officer in exchange for a check made out to the front company; he could find a wealthy friend who would take the cash and write the check; or, he could sidestep the front company altogether and simply bring the cash to Simon, who would disburse it to the family from his attorney trust account.
The $6,000 the informant and federal agent had provided to establish the front corporation would be Simon's fee for the latter option, seeing as it would put him at such personal risk. He acknowledged that he would have to declare the addition of the money to his trust account to the IRS but reassured the informant and agent that -- one of the beauties of attorney-client privilege -- he wouldn't have to disclose its source.
They met once more on March 16. The informant and agent brought the cash, $110,000 now, and Simon ran it through his money counter, except the money counter broke, and Simon was forced to count it out by hand.
While he was counting, the three struck up a conversation in which, according to a federal court filing, they "repeatedly discussed the (informant)'s participation in the drug trade and that the money being counted was from his drug trafficking activities."
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(Let's pause to imagine how this played out. Simon: "Man, you sure must sell a lot of illegal drugs." Informant: "Oh yeah. Tons. The illegaler the better. That's my motto." Simon: "Wow. No one with that motto could ever be a government snitch." Informant: (Nervous laughter))
As an added safeguard, Simon and the informant devised a system by which the payments could be adjusted. If they needed more money, he should call and say that a specified college football team(court filings don't say which) was playing well. Less, he'd say a specified NFL team (this has to be the Cowboys, right?) was playing terribly.
With that, the deal was sealed. Simon would go on to pay $68,000 in drug money from his trust account over the next 10 months, per the agreement. Unfortunately for him, the Feds were tracking the payments all along and knew exactly what he was doing. Hence yesterday's court tilings.
Simon has waived indictment and entered a guilty plea. He faces up to five years in prison and a $500,000 fine.