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Lawyer helped drug dealers hide cash

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  • | 4:54 p.m. August 25, 2016
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  • Tampa Bay-Lakeland
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Tampa attorney Joe Manuel Gonzalez, 66, pleaded guilty in federal court to charges that he was part of a money-laundering scheme connected to drug sales.

Gonzalez, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney's office, pleaded guilty to structuring financial transactions to avoid currency reporting requirements. He faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

Gonzalez, according to the plea agreement, established a fictitious trust and bank account for a confidential source and a Drug Enforcement Administration undercover agent. The source and agent posed as brothers to Gonzalez, whose independent law firm in Tampa specializes in financial and tax matters.

The brothers told Gonzalez they made $30,000-$50,000 per month from a marijuana grow house operation, and needed somewhere safe to put their money, according to the statement. Gonzalez, authorities allege, “advised the 'brothers' how to set up and make deposits into bank accounts to avoid detection by law enforcement.”

Gonzalez, the plea agreement adds, established a bank account for the brothers in the name of a fictitious trust and made the initial deposits into the bank account with what Gonzalez understood to be proceeds from the marijuana business. Gonzalez, on two separate occasions, structured the cash provided to him by the undercover agent, officials allege. He did that by breaking up the bank deposit into separate transactions under $10,000 to avoid the currency reporting requirements and to avoid detection by law enforcement.


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