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Political Ties, Money Laundering and Fraud Charges in South Florida

CourtColumns-7474334-M-150x150A powerful Delray Beach developer once tasked with helping appoint local judges also has ties so close to the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office that it is backing away from handling his prosecution for allegedly cheating a sandwich mogul out of more than $1 million.

Anthony Pugliese and his business manager, Joseph Reamer, are fighting charges of conspiracy to commit organized scheme to defraud, money laundering and grand theft.

Investigators say Pugliese, with Reamer’s help, created fake companies and phony invoices to steal $1.2 million from Subway founder Fred DeLuca. DeLuca at the time was working with Pugliese on Destiny, a failed $111 million, 41,000-acre “green” community planned just south of Yeehaw Junction in Osceola County.

Pugliese, 65, and Reamer, 54, turned themselves in to Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office deputies days before Dave Aronberg was elected state attorney. By then, not only had Pugliese donated money to Aronberg’s campaign but he also once retained as his lawyer Barry Krischer — the former state attorney, a chief Aronberg supporter and a volunteer adviser to the top prosecutor.

Shortly after his election, Aronberg said he would give Pugliese’s donation to charity but keep the case. Last month, however, one of his chief assistants asked Gov. Rick Scott to assign another office to the case. Last week, Scott’s legal office assigned the case to prosecutors from the 20th Judicial Circuit, a five-county jurisdiction that covers the Tampa area.

“It is my opinion that it would serve everyone’s interests to have another prosecutor assigned to this case,”

Chief Assistant State Attorney Brian Fernandes wrote in a January letter to Scott’s office. (source, full story)

Money laundering is a felony, which may be charged in state or federal court. The penalties include jail time, a fine, and the forfeiture of any cash seized by the government. If the cash from an illegal enterprise is deposited in a bank account that contains other funds, the entire bank account could be seized.

Money laundering, or “smurffing” as it is otherwise known, occurs when you conceal the use of funds or money that came from an illegal enterprise. In reality, money laundering charges are usually the result of over-zealous prosecutors.

Various laundering techniques can be used by individuals, groups, officials, and corporations. The goal of a money laundering operation is usually to hide either the source or the destination of money; in many cases it aims to make illegal transactions appear legitimate and legal.

Money laundering methods sometimes involve investments in fake companies, called “shells,” or legitimate companies, called “fronts.” These operations usually involve faking receipts and evidence to record profits for transactions that are actually from funneled laundering funds. Businesses that deal primarily in cash and have a relatively low weekly or monthly deposit level are often targets of laundering. Service-oriented businesses, as opposed to goods-providing businesses, are also commonly used, since there is less evidence of a service than of a purported good.

You could also be charged with money laundering if you are a business person or professional, such as a lawyer, who accepts cash payments from clients without reporting the transaction to the IRS. Under Florida and federal law, cash transactions of $10,000 or more have to be reported to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Attempting to structure cash payments to avoid the $10,000 IRS reporting requirement is also a crime.

At the law firm of Andrew D. Stine, P.A., in West Palm Beach, we have extensive experience representing people charged with fraud crimes, including mortgage fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, securities fraud, tax evasion, insider trading, theft by fraudulent means, writing bad checks, and organized schemes to defraud. To protect your money and your freedom, we will be proactive in addressing the underlying criminal charges, whether that is drug trafficking, fraud, or another white-collar crime.

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