LAWFUEL – Lawyer Newswire – A Newport Beach attorney who provided “asset protection” services to clients agreed to plead guilty today to a federal money laundering charge, admitting that he agreed to launder $500,000 for a man who said the money was proceeds of a mail fraud scheme.
Thomas Burton, 60, of Newport Beach, agreed to plead guilty to international money laundering in a plea agreement filed today in federal court in Santa Ana.
According to the plea agreement, Burton agreed to launder $500,000 for Daryl Ray Rice, who told Burton that he had funds overseas that were “proceeds” of his “mail frauds” and that he needed to repatriate the money to the United States without detection. Unbeknownst to Burton, Rice was being directed by the FBI and was recording his conversations with Burton.
According to the plea agreement, Burton offered to help make Rice’s fraudulent proceeds “look like an investment” by preparing paperwork to make it appear that the money was a loan. They planned to wire $500,000 of fraudulent proceeds to an offshore account of a company called UniCache, which in turn would wire $200,000 from a different account to Rice’s attorney’s trust account.
Rather than risk $500,000, the FBI directed Rice to do a “test” transaction with Burton involving $50,000, which Rice wired to a UniCache account in Bermuda. UniCache then wired $30,000 from its account in Bermuda to an account in the United States, and then wired $20,000 from this United States account to Rice’s attorney’s trust account.
Burton faces a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison. He is scheduled to appear for an arraignment in United States District Court in Santa Ana on February 4.
In addition to agreeing to plead guilty, Burton agreed to reimburse the FBI the $30,000 it lost in conducting this sting operation.
Rice previously pleaded guilty to mail fraud and structuring cash transactions to avoid reporting requirements. He is scheduled to be sentenced by United States District Judge David O. Carter on April 7.
The money laundering investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
CONTACT: Assistant United States Attorney Andrew Stolper