Lito Lapid's wife gets 3 years probation

By Joseph Lariosa, The Philippine Star

Posted at Feb 06 2013 02:02 AM | Updated as of Feb 06 2013 10:04 AM

CHICAGO – A US district court on Monday sentenced the wife of Sen. Lito Lapid to three years in probation for smuggling cash.

Marissa Tadeo Lapid has been sentenced to three years of probation, including five months home confinement, a $40,000 fine, and forfeiture of $159,700 after pleading guilty to cash smuggling and conspiracy to structure money transactions.

Natalie Collins, spokesperson for lawyer Daniel Bogden of the US District Court of Nevada in Las Vegas, said Mrs. Lapid was charged for “knowingly and willfully conspiring and agreeing with other persons, both known and unknown, to commit the crime of structuring transactions with intent to evade reporting requirement.”

Mrs. Lapid was arrested on Nov. 27, 2010 at the McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas. She reportedly tried to smuggle in US $40,000 in cash and P10,000 at the airport.

Mrs. Lapid was charged before US District Court Magistrate Judge Peggy Leen of Las Vegas in Nevada with a count each of cash bulk smuggling and conspiracy to structure transactions to evade reporting requirements.

The maximum penalty for conspiracy is a five-year prison sentence and a fine of $250,000 while the maximum penalty for bulk smuggling is five years imprisonment.

In addition to jail time, Mrs. Lapid is subject to a three-year off supervised release plus $100 special assessment per count at the time of sentencing, Collins said.

Judge Leen handed down the sentence during Monday’s hearing when she also unsealed the indictment information, the plea agreement and the second supplementary plea agreement.

Because Mrs. Lapid is not a US citizen but an immigrant, she will likely be deported after she serves out her sentence.

Officials explained that Mrs. Lapid committed to “structure cash deposits” by separating a single deposit above the reporting threshold into two or more separate deposits for the purpose of evading” her financial institutions’ reporting requirements.

These financial institutions are banks located in the US. These banks are legally required since 1996 to report to the federal government cash deposits that were above a certain dollar amount, $10,000, “the reporting threshold,” by making the so-called currency transaction report (CTR) when a depositor makes a deposit.

The scheme involves breaking larger amount into two or more amounts that were less than the original amount and deposited them into multiple bank accounts, often on the same day.

According to the indictment, Mrs. Lapid on Jan. 5, 2009, deposited $5,700 cash at a Las Vegas branch of J. P. Morgan Chase Bank, a domestic financial institution.

Two days later, on Jan. 7, 2009, Mrs. Lapid deposited another $5,700 cash into the same bank account.

On or about April 8, 2009, Mrs. Lapid deposited $9,000 cash at a Las Vegas branch of Bank of America.

On April 8, 2009, Mrs. Lapid deposited another $9,000 cash at a Las Vegas branch of Wells Fargo Bank.

On May 11, 2009, she made another deposit of $9,000 cash at the Las Vegas Bank of America.

On the same day, Mrs. Lapid deposited $9,000 cash at a Las Vegas Wells Fargo Bank.

A week later, on May 18, 2009, Mrs. Lapid deposited $6,000 cash at Las Vegas Bank of America; $8,000 cash and $6,000 cash in Las Vegas JP Morgan and in Las Vegas Wells Fargo Bank of America.

On July 20, 2009, she deposited $8,000 cash at Las Vegas JP Morgan Chase Bank; the following day, she made another $9,000 cash deposit into the same bank account.

On Dec. 23, 2009, Mrs. Lapid deposited $5,000 cash each separately at Bank of America and at Las Vegas JP Morgan Chase Bank.

And on June 7, 2010, five months before she was arrested, Mrs. Lapid deposited $9,000 cash at JP Morgan Chase Bank at Las Vegas.

The US government forfeited all the “property, real or personal, involved in the offense, and any property traceable to such property,” including the $40,000 confiscated from Mrs. Lapid during her November 2010 arrival, and the monies she deposited in her bank accounts to the tune of $159,700.

In the plea agreement prepared by Assistant US Attorney Michael Chu and defense counsel Eliot Krieger, Mrs. Lapid pleaded guilty to bulk smuggling and conspiracy to structure transactions to evade reporting requirements.

Mrs. Lapid also agreed to waive her jury trial, to confront witnesses and to cross-examine them, the right to remain silent at such trial, right to testify in her own defense, the right to compel witness to appear at such a trial and testify on the defendant’s behalf, the right to have assistance of an attorney.

She can no longer withdraw her guilty pleas after she had entered them in court.

The plea stated Mrs. Lapid “knowingly concealed more than $10,000” in US currency on her person or other container.

When she was arrested in possession of $40,000, Mrs. Lapid remarked, “I’m sorry, it’s for my house.”

She had spent Christmas in the Philippines and since returned to the US, sources said.

Senator Lapid’s camp refused to comment on the case. - Christina Mendez