Court narrows money laundering charge

June 2, 2008 at 1:50 PM
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WASHINGTON, June 2 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday in a Texas case that just hiding money in transport does not violate a section of the U.S. money laundering law.

Humberto Regalado Cuellar was driving toward the Mexican border in south Texas when he was stopped for driving erratically. A police officer asked for and got permission to search the car when the driver produced a wad of money from his shirt that smelled of marijuana, court records say.

Police found nearly $81,000 in plastic bags covered with animal hair in a secret compartment under the rear floorboard. Regalado Cuellar was charged with trying to take funds outside the United States knowing the funds represented the proceeds of unlawful activity, and that the transport was designed to conceal the nature and source of the funds.

A federal appeals court upheld his conviction, but the Supreme Court reversed.

Writing for the court, Justice Clarence Thomas said the evidence did not show Regalado Cuellar had tried to disguise the nature and origin of the money.

(No. 06-1456, Regalado Cuellar vs. United States)

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