Leonardo Lara, 36, pleaded guilty yesterday to concealment money laundering, transacting in criminally-derived property, and theft of public funds. U.S. District Court Judge Rya W. Zobel scheduled sentencing for June 28, 2017.
On at least 10 occasions between January and March 2012, Lara converted fraudulent United States Treasury tax refund checks for his own use.
Specifically, Lara deposited into his personal checking account at least 10 fraudulent tax refund checks payable in the names of taxpayers in Puerto Rico and elsewhere that resulted from the filing of fraudulent tax returns in tax years 2010 and 2011. Each of the tax refund checks was endorsed with the purported signature of the payee taxpayer and the notation “pay to the order of Leonardo Lara” along with the defendant’s signature.
The payees of the tax refund checks did not earn the wages reported in the tax returns and were unaware that the tax returns had been filed in their names. Shortly after the tax refund checks cleared, Lara made cash withdrawals from the account. In total, he converted at least $67,871 in government funds for his own use.
In addition, Lara engaged in money laundering activity relating to the purchase of property. Specifically, on Feb. 12, 2012, Lara purchased a cashier’s check in the amount of $56,574 with funds withdrawn from an account controlled by him held in the name of JZE LLC. The bank account was funded, at least in part, by structured cash deposits, and the funds withdrawn from the bank had been derived, at least in part, from Lara’s theft of public funds. Lara used the cashier’s check to purchase property on Riverside Drive in Lawrence, Mass. Lara conducted a similar activity on March 16, 2012 – purchasing a cashier’s check for $60,657 and using it to purchase property on Florence Street in Lawrence. These transactions were designed to conceal the nature and source of the proceeds.
The charge of concealment money laundering provides for a sentence of no greater than 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a fine of $500,000 and forfeiture. The charges of transacting in criminally-derived property and theft of public funds provides for a sentence of no greater than 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a fine of $250,000, forfeiture and restitution. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Linda M. Ricci of Weinreb’s Narcotics and Money Laundering Unit is prosecuting the case.