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University professor accused of money laundering

California residents may have heard that the author of a 2015 book about organized crime and money laundering has been accused of committing the very offenses he wrote about. Federal prosecutors say the University of Miami professor laundered millions of dollars that had been stolen from Venezuelan citizens. The 73-year-old Florida resident has been charged with two counts of money laundering and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Each of the counts carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in a federal prison.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the professor received about $2.5 million during an 11-month period that began in November 2017 from bank accounts in the United Arab Emirates and Switzerland. About 90% of the $200,000 that the professor allegedly received each month was withdrawn from several bank accounts using cashier's checks. The professor is then said to have transferred the remaining funds to his personal bank account. Prosecutors believe that the money was the proceeds of official corruption and originated in Venezuela.

The University of Miami responded to news of the money laundering charges by announcing in a press statement that the professor has been placed on administrative leave. The university declined to comment further because legal proceedings are ongoing.

The most important pieces of evidence in cases like this one are usually bank documents and other financial records that could be difficult to call into question in court. When their clients are accused by federal prosecutors of committing white-collar crimes like embezzlement, bribery, fraud or money laundering, experienced criminal defense attorneys may seek to negotiate sentence reductions during plea discussions. The penalties for federal crimes tend to be severe, but U.S. attorneys may agree to reduce them in return for a guilty plea and a swift conclusion.

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