Ringleaders Plead Guilty To Money-Laundering
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) _ Three members of a million-dollar global money-laundering ring involving Israelis and Colombians pleaded guilty Tuesday, leaving only the fate of an accused Seattle rabbi to be resolved.
Adi Tal and Nir Goldeshtein, both 27, and Avshalom Hazan, 24, of Seattle, admitted taking part in the scheme the government has said was conceived to conceal the source of at least $25 million over an 18-month period.
The three operated in New York, Seattle and Los Angeles, violated federal currency reporting requirements to mask the flow of cash, most of which was diverted to Panama. Money also flowed to Europe.
Authorities have not disclosed the source of the cash. The Drug Enforcement Administration helped investigate the case, and a prosecutor has said that drug-sniffing dogs reacted positively to several packets of money seized in the probe.
Tal and Goldeshtein face a maximum of 25 years in prison at sentencing before U.S. District Judge John Bissell on Feb. 10. Hazan faces up to five years.
Of the 16 people indicted in March, Tal and Goldeshtein were the U.S. ring- leaders, authorities said. Beyond the reach of U.S. prosecutors are two defendants in Colombia, charged as the operation’s masterminds, and three defendants in Israel.
Tal and Goldeshtein are Israeli nationals with U.S. residency status, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Stuart J. Rabner, who handled the case.
Six others, including Hazan, have pleaded guilty in the case, and the wives of Tal and Goldeshtein - Jacqueline Tal and Zoe Lawton, respectively - have agreed to enter a pretrial program in which their criminal records would be erased after a year under supervision.
Rabner would not comment on the status of Rabbi Sholom Levitin, who has pleaded innocent to the charges.
Levitin is a leader of the Lubavitch Hasidic community in Seattle and runs a community house for the sect there.
Tuesday was to be the first day of trial, and no new date had been set for Levitin, said Rabner.
Among other acts, Tal on Tuesday admitted arranging the transfer of hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash to Levitin. Tal said he told Levitin to deposit money with banks to avoid filing federal currency reports, and that he had the rabbi wire money to an account in Israel.
Tal and Goldeshtein pleaded guilty to conspiring to launder money.
Tal also pleaded guilty to one count of illegally transferring money overseas and one count of structuring an illegal currency transaction. Goldeshtein also pleaded guilty to two counts of illegal structuring.
In another, unrelated money laundering case, six men appeared before a federal magistrate in Dallas Tuesday on charges of routing drug money through a financial institution in the West Indies.
The Internal Revenue Service said the suspects, four from Missouri and two from Dallas, allegedly laundered more than $500,000 in drug funds through the Turks and Caicos Islands between March and November of this year.
They did not enter pleas.