The Supreme Court has made it more difficult for the government to prove certain money-laundering crimes, the Christian Science Monitor reports. In two cases yesterday, the court reversed the conviction of a man caught with cash hidden in his car in Texas near the Mexican border, and it refused to reinstate a money-laundering conviction in a case involving illegal gambling in Indiana. In both cases the justices rejected the Justice Department’s expansive reading of the federal money-laundering statutes.
In the hidden cash case, the court ruled 9 to 0 that prosecutors had failed to prove their case when Humberto Fidel Regalado Cuellar was convicted of money laundering after authorities discovered $81,000 in a secret compartment in his car. Justice Clarence Thomas said “the government must demonstrate that the defendant did more than merely hide the money during its transport.” At issue in the illegal gambling case was whether Congress used the word “proceeds” in the money-laundering statute to refer to the total amount of money received in a criminal operation or whether lawmakers were referring only to the criminal operation’s profits after expenses were paid. In embracing a narrow reading of the word “proceeds,” majority justices said that in the context of a case involving an illegal lottery, the term “proceeds” in the money-laundering law must be read as “profits.”