Jury convicts car dealers in money laundering scheme - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Jury convicts car dealers in money laundering scheme

Released by U.S. Attorneys's Office:

PLANO, TX (KLTV) - A federal jury has convicted two North Texas car dealers in a money laundering scheme in the Eastern District of Texas, announced U.S. Attorney John M. Bales.

Richard Alan Arledge, 55, of McKinney, Texas, was convicted of conspiracy to commit money laundering and Steve Ham, 47, of Richardson, Texas, was convicted of conspiracy to commit money laundering and substantive money laundering. The jury returned their verdict late Dec. 6, 2010 following a three week trial before U.S. District Judge Richard Schell.

According to information presented in court, Arledge served as the owner and operator of Richard Arledge Suzuki, which sold new and used cars, and as the director and president of Expressway Financial, Inc., which provided vehicle financing and leasing arrangements. Ham served as the Sales Manager for Expressway Financial.

At trial, prosecutors presented the testimony of over thirty witnesses to establish that Arledge and Ham sold high-end luxury cars – including Bentleys, Aston Martins, and Maseratis – to individuals who derived their income from the illegal distribution of controlled substances, the promotion of prostitution, and mail and wire fraud. These criminal customers usually paid for their luxury cars in cash, and provided tens of thousands of dollars in cash to the dealership in pillowcases, in shrink-wrapped plastic packages, in backpacks, and in fast food paper bags. One criminal customer testified that he provided $48,000 in cash directly to Arledge in two double-bagged plastic grocery bags.

During the course of these financial transactions, Arledge, Ham, and other dealership employees promised the criminal customers that the dealership would not report the financial transactions to federal authorities, despite federal reporting regulations requiring that all cash received in excess of $10,000 be reported to the Internal Revenue Service. Arledge and Ham also concealed the fact that the criminal customers were purchasing the cars by titling the transactions in the names of third parties. Finally, Arledge and Ham labeled the car purchases as "leases" which enabled the dealership to re-acquire the luxury cars if ever seized by law enforcement during the course of a federal investigation.

Prior to trial, thirteen individuals pleaded guilty in connection with the money laundering scheme. Former employees Cecil Coleman, 39, and Rustyn Thomas, 34, each pleaded guilty for their roles in conspiring with Arledge and Ham to assist with the illegal transactions. Former employee Julius Farr, 51, pleaded guilty for concealing material facts from a law enforcement investigation. Warren Barconia, 34, and Jerome Helen, 40, each pleaded guilty to conspiring to launder proceeds derived from prostitution. Patrick Dread, 53, Robert Louis Hawkins, Jr., 36, and Stoney Kidd, 47, each pleaded guilty to conspiring to launder proceeds derived from the illegal distribution of controlled substances. Tyrone McCray, 47, pleaded guilty to conspiring to launder proceeds derived from mail and wire fraud as well as the illegal distribution of controlled substances. Charo Knight, 34, and Clarence Williams, 33, pleaded guilty to conspiring to launder proceeds derived from illegal gambling. Marcus Dean, 39, and Jason Palmore, 30, each pleaded guilty to assisting in the concealment of the luxury car transactions.

In assessing the verdict, U.S. Attorney Bales announced, "Without money laundering, drug dealers and other criminals would not be able to convert their illegal gains into things like luxury cars, jewelry, and other desirables. Money laundering supports the entire criminal industry. We will be unrelenting in investigating and prosecuting those that sell to criminals and choose to help them conceal the illegal income that funds the transaction."

Andrea D. Whelan, Special Agent in Charge of the IRS Criminal Investigation Division, Dallas Field Office, said, "In spite of the concerted efforts to conceal it, the trail of dirty money was there for law enforcement to find. IRS special agents will continue to use their financial expertise to trace illegal funds, in order to put criminals like these in jail and take the ill-gotten profits out of their hands."

Arledge and Ham face up to 20 years in federal prison on the conspiracy charges. A sentencing date has not been set.

This case is being investigated by special agents with the Internal Revenue Service assisted by officers from the Desoto Police Department, the Lancaster Police Department, and the Midlothian Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Shamoil T. Shipchandler and Glenn Roque-Jackson.

Powered by Frankly