May 19, 2004 – Four people have been charged with money laundering and conspiracy in connection with a scheme in which they allegedly purchased almost $7 million in money orders over a three-year period in amounts that would not trigger a legally mandated reporting mechanism.
Florida residents Donald James Helms Jr., Carolyn Saunders Helms, along with Virgin Islands residents Katherine Cardinal and Johnny Neil Smith are accused of conspiring to hide cash acquired by the sale of phone cards by purchasing money orders in amounts of less than $3,000 at various post offices throughout the Virgin Islands, according to a release from U.S. Attorney David Nissman's office.
The federal Bank Security Act requires anyone purchasing money orders in amounts totaling $3,000 or more to provide personal identification information to the seller.
The indictment charges the four with purchasing money orders between January 2000 and January 2003 in amounts ranging from $175 to $1,999, thus avoiding the requirement.
The 11-count indictment returned Wednesday by a federal grand jury seeks forfeiture of $6,843,028.53 should the group be found guilty of the charges.
U.S. Attorney James Carroll III said Wednesday such a forfeiture would allow seizure of any monies held by the defendants, not just the money acquired through the money laundering.
The indictment says the defendants used various means to sell West Indies Phone Cards directly as well as to retail customers, who then resold the cards.
All four sold the cards, and all four are charged with conspiracy and money laundering, known in legal terms as structuring monetary transactions.
The indictment says the Helms's were doing business as West Indies Phone Cards, while Cardinal and Smith served as office managers during their respective terms of employment by the phone card company.
The defendants also hired sales people to sell the cards, according to the indictment.
The maximum penalty for conspiracy is five years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. Structuring monetary transactions carries a 10-year maximum prison term and a $500,000 fine for each count.
Nissman credited the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Internal Revenue Service and the Drug Enforcement Administration in the investigation of the case.
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