Monday, June 21, 2010

Single Source of Funds Does Not Preclude Pattern of Illegal Activity

US v. Peterson: Peterson had multiple chiropractic operations in Virginia, the cash proceeds of which she put in a safe deposit box. The amount in the box totaled over $100,000. She also made a series of deposits into her checking account of $9500 or a little less, at the urging of her (now ex) husband to "avoid burdensome paperwork" and arousing the suspicion of law enforcement from large cash deposits made by an Iranian-American. Peterson pleaded guilty to structuring under 31 USC 5324(a)(3). At sentencing, she argued that a two-level enhancement under USSG 2S1.3(b)(2) did not apply because the alleged "pattern of unlawful activity" was all the same - transferring funds from her safety deposit box into her bank account. The district court disagreed, calling the result of such an argument "bizarre and unintended."

On appeal, Peterson renewed her argument that she did not engaged in a "pattern of unlawful activity" - defined as two or more separate instances of illegal activity - if all the funds in question came from only one source. The Fourth Circuit disagreed and affirmed Peterson's sentence. It held that the enhancement can apply in cases of "serial structuring," even if the result is only one indictable offense. The single source of the funds was irrelevant, as "because Peterson made more than one unlawful deposit . . . she committed her offense as part of a pattern of unlawful activity."

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