Leonardo Lara of Lawrence Sentenced For Money Laundering & Theft of Public Funds

BOSTON – A Lawrence man was sentenced yesterday in federal court in Boston for money laundering, transacting in criminally-derived property, and theft of public funds

Leonardo Lara, 36, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Rya W. Zobel to 15 months in prison, three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $67,871. In March 2017, Lara pleaded guilty to two counts of laundering monetary instruments, two counts of transacting in criminally-derived property, and five counts of theft of government funds.

On at least 10 occasions between January and March 2012, Lara converted fraudulent United States Treasury tax refund checks for his own use.  He 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, on two occasion, Lara purchased property in Lawrence through transactions designed to conceal the nature and source of his proceeds. On Feb. 12, 2012, he purchased a cashier’s check in the amount of $56,574 and used it to purchase property. The funds were withdrawn from an account controlled by Lara and held in the name of JZE LLC., a bank account funded, at least in part, by structured cash deposits, and the funds withdrawn from the bank had been derived, at least in part, from Lara’s theft of public funds.  On March 16, 2012, Lara purchased another cashier’s check for $60,657 and used it to purchase another property in Lawrence. 

Lara was also involved in certain drug activity involving the distribution of oxycodone pills.  Over a two-year period, approximately $475,000 was deposited into accounts controlled by Lara, none of which was explained by any legitimate sources of income. 

Acting United States Attorney William D. Weinreb; Joel P. Garland, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation Division in Boston; and Michael Ferguson, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Boston Field Division, made the announcement today.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Linda M. Ricci of Weinreb’s Narcotics and Money Laundering Unit prosecuted the case.