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Robert A. George, prominent defense attorney, charged with money laundering

Posted by Metro Desk  March 23, 2011 01:27 PM

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Cape Trial 4.jpg

2006 Globe File Photo

Robert A. George meets with reporters outside Barnstable Superior Court after Christopher McCowen was convicted for murdering Christa Worthington.

A high-profile Boston defense attorney was charged today by federal authorities with allegedly laundering drug money.

Robert Albert George, 56, of Westwood allegedly conspired with a person cooperating with federal investigators to launder $225,000 in drug proceeds between 2009 and 2011.

George is one of Boston’s better-known defense attorneys, with a client list that has included organized crime figures and Christopher M. McCowen, who was convicted for murdering fashion writer Christa Worthington in a Truro home.

George appeared in US District Court in Boston this afternoon, where he pleaded not guilty to all charges and was expected to be released on $50,000 unsecured bond. He was arrested at his home this morning.

As he was being led into the courtroom, George looked to the reporters gathered to watch the case against him unfold and appeared to mouth the word, "stupid.''

George will be represented by Boston attorney Rosemary C. Scapicchio and Brockton attorney Kevin J. Reddington, it was disclosed in court today.

Scapicchio denounced federal officials for investigating George and complained that when federal law enforcement officials, including prosecutors, are found to have violated the law or ethical rules, little or no punishment results.

“In this case, they are investigating a criminal defense attorney who is out there protecting people’s rights,’’ she said, adding that George denies the charges. “This is outrageous.’’

According to an affidavit filed in court by US Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Joseph Tamuleviz, the investigation that resulted in the charges against George began with a chance encounter at the South Shore Plaza mall in Braintree.

In March 2009, George ran into a former client who had been convicted in 2001 of selling repossessed cars and keeping hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash.

George, according to federal officials, told his former client – who was a paid DEA informant -- that he knew a Dover man who owned a mortgage company who could help George launder $100,000 cash in two or three days in return for a $20,000 fee, leaving $80,000 for the informant.

Prodded by law enforcement, the informant and George had a secretly recorded conversation on March 16, 2009, in which George allegedly agreed to have his friend launder $100,000 cash in return for the 20 percent fee.

According to the affidavit, the informant repeatedly told both George and the mortgage company owner that the cash was proceeds from drug sales.

After several meetings and phone conversations involving George, the informant, and the mortgage company owner, on Dec. 16, 2009, the informant allegedly handed over a duffel bag filled with $100,000 cash to the mortgage company owner outside his office in Dedham, according to the federal affidavit.

Three days later, after another conversation with George that was recorded by the DEA, the informant allegedly picked up a check for $80,000 in Dedham that was made payable to a fake company set up by the DEA, according to the affidavit.

In April 2010, the informant met again with the mortgage company official, this time outside Joe’s American Bar & Grill in Dedham where a second, $100,000 cash transaction allegedly took place.

This time, the mortgage company official allegedly immediately wrote a check for $80,000, made payable to the DEA front company, and gave it to the informant, according to the affidavit.

While George had boasted about his close ties to the mortgage company owner, relations between George and the owner frayed so badly during early 2010 that George allegedly asked the informant to “scare’’ his friend.

"'You don’t mind scarin’ him, do you?’" George allegedly asked the informant on April 26, 2010. “Because your loyalty is to me…nothing illegal involved…He thinks he’s [expletive deleted] like doin’ these deals with you and not giving me anything.' ’’

According to federal officials, DEA agents approached the mortgage company official in June 2010, who initially denied laundering money, but then became the second cooperating witness involved in the George investigation.

George, however, appeared to be unaware that both people allegedly involved in the money laundering scheme were now cooperating with federal officials.

George allegedly told the informant on June 1, 2010, "'don’t worry about him cooperating ‘cause he’s too frightened to do that. Because he put himself in the soup.'" George then told the informant, "'That’s not happening.'"

George is facing a second set of charges for allegedly agreeing to pay the informant a finder’s fee for bringing the veteran defense attorney new clients.

According to the federal affidavit, an undercover DEA agent posed as a Worcester drug dealer and paid George $25,000 in cash that he split into smaller amounts and deposited into two bank accounts so he could avoid the $10,000 threshold for reporting cash transactions to the government.

In a statement, US Attorney Carmen Ortiz denounced George, a fellow lawyer: “Defense counsel play a critical role in the criminal justice system, protecting important constitutional rights upon which we all depend ... but when an attorney assists in the criminal concealment and laundering of drug money -- as is alleged in this case -- it impedes the administration of justice and is an affront to all ethical and law-abiding members of the bar.''

Originally published on the blog MetroDesk.

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