The opinion of the court was delivered by: Patrick A. Conmy, Senior District Judge United States District Court
A number of individuals were indicted on charges of conspiracy to possess and distribute methamphetamine and a second count of conspiracy to engage in money laundering. Three defendants, Tamara Heid, Derle Marchus and Jessie Marchus were named only in count two, the money laundering conspiracy court. These defendants were severed and trial scheduled later.
Tamara Heid entered a pleas of guilty to the charge.
Tamara Heid has moved to withdraw her guilty plea to conspiracy to engage in money laundering.
The plea was entered on the Friday before a trial scheduled to begin on the next Monday. The trial proceeded for the two remaining defendants and the jury returned a guilty verdict as to each.
The Court then granted the defendant's Rule 29 motions for judgment of acquittal, holding that the evidence was insufficient regarding the defendant's knowledge that the cash involved was the proceeds of illegal activity and expressing skepticism that the transaction fit the intent and definitions of the money laundering statute.
The facts, in summary, are that Donovan Slagg was charged in State Court with possession and delivery of methamphetamine. Bail was set at $50,000.00 cash. In recorded telephone calls from the Burleigh County jail, Mr. Slagg urged his mother, Tamara Heid, to somehow get him out of jail. These calls contain suggestions of possible sources, by implication at least of those owing money for previous drug transactions, and from a "safe" in the possession of Tamara Heid..
The funds were assembled, and a local bail bondsman, Derle Marchus, was asked to take the cash to the office of the Clerk of District Court and post it as the required bond for a fee of $1,000.00. Marchus is a licensed bail bondsman (insurance agent?) authorized to write surety bonds. He, accompanied by his son Jesse, met Tamara Heid and Tamara Heid's mother at the apartment of one of them, where cash was stacked everywhere, helped count it and then undertook to deliver the cash to the courthouse the following day. Marchus was told the funds were the life savings of Tamara Heid and of her mother.
When recounted by clerk's office employees, the total was found to be only $48,000.00. Tamara Heid was called (she being somewhere nearby in order to take her son home after the bond was posted) and the total of $50,000.00 somehow reached. Two documents were prepared. The first recites that the bond is posted by AAA bonding, Mr. Marchus's business, and assigned to Tamara Heid, thus authorizing the Clerk's office to deliver the funds back to Tamara Heid when the bond was exonerated.
The second document was the IRS form required for cash transactions in excess of $10,000.00 Neither Derle Marchus or Tamara Heid were willing to sign as the person furnishing the funds, in the mistaken belief that the signature would somehow automatically expose them to income tax liability. Jesse Marchus then indicated that his name could be listed as the source of the funds, stating that the only property he owned to put at risk was some music videos.
Donovan Slagg was released from jail-the State charges dismissed when the United States indicted Mr. Slagg and a number of others-and the $50,000 seized by the United States.
Tamara Heid filed a claim, under oath, to the $50,000.00 (or to a substantial portion of it) stating that it was her life savings.
The Government has filed a notice of appeal from the granting of the motions of acquittal.
Others who were convicted or pled guilty in the earlier trial are awaiting sentencing. Appeals from both sides are likely as the trial judge granted at least one motion for judgment of acquittal on the identical conspiracy to launder money charge. Motions are pending for judgment of acquittal ...