McLean Bank yesterday was ordered to pay an $80,000 fine for failing to report cash deposits that helped convicted drug dealer Christopher F. Reckmeyer launder millions of dollars of illegal funds.
The bank was fined in U.S. District Court in Alexandria after its representatives entered a guilty plea to intentionally failing to file federal reports on 23 occasions between July 16, 1980, and April 27, 1981. The cash involved totalled $620,000 -- part of more than $2.5 million deposited at the bank in an account called Crancy's Inc. and controlled by Reckmeyer beginning in the 1970s.
Financial institutions are required by federal law to tell the IRS about cash transactions exceeding $10,000. The IRS uses the information for criminal investigations.
In May, Reckmeyer was sentenced to serve 17 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to masterminding what federal prosecutors had described as a marijuana and hashish empire that stretched from coast to coast and grossed more than $100 million during a decade.
McLean Bank's attorney, Barry S. Simon of Williams and Connally, argued before U.S. District Judge James C. Cacheris yesterday that the bank's problem "was a failure to educate and train the tellers in the bank." Simon said the bank's actions may have constituted "negligence" but were not "intentional."
Simon asked the judge to impose a fine of no more than $10,000. But the request was refused after Assistant U.S. Attorney Kent S. Robinson argued that the bank had committed "a criminal act" and that the bank "knew large deposits required it to make reports."
Although the maximum penalty for the bank's violation is a $500,000 fine, terms of an agreement between the government and the bank limited the possible fine to $100,000. McLean, a federally insured and state-chartered commercial bank, is being acquired by James Madison Ltd. Officials there did not return phone calls yesterday.
A government sentencing memorandum written by Robinson called McLean Bank "a silent partner to drug distributions." Robinson, who conducted a grand-jury investigation, said: "Bank management, as well as the tellers, knew about Reckmeyer's account.
"At the time of these transactions, he was in his late 20s, wore long hair and a beard and brought his deposits to the bank in paper bags stuffed with $20 bills."
According to the memorandum, six different tellers told the government that the common belief around the bank was that Reckmeyer must be involved in drugs. Management also knew of Reckmeyer because "his deposits took a long time to count," the memorandum said. "Several tellers complained to management about the inconvenience of handling his deposits."
Bank management officials also would have been involved when, for example, Reckmeyer used currency to purchase a $50,000 cashier's check, the memorandum said. But still no reports were filed.
"The bank's response to these circumstances can only be characterized as willful inaction," Robinson said in his memorandum.
He said the Reckmeyer probe was "delayed for lack of a crucial piece of information by two years."
In 1981, the IRS had begun an investigation, but dropped it after deeming "insignificant" $350,000 worth of transactions in 1980 reported by McLean and other banks. Reckmeyer actually had deposited an additional $1.6 million in unreported currency that year. "Had those deposits been reported on currency transaction reports, the IRS would not have terminated the initial investigation," Robinson's memorandum said.
According to court documents, more than $2.25 million in cash was deposited on 173 separate occasions by Reckmeyer since the early 1970s. Beginning in 1978, many of the cash transactions exceeded $10,000, but McLean Bank filed only six reports with the IRS on the Crancy's account, involving about $200,000 in deposits, the U.S. Attorney's Office said. No reports were filed on 61 transactions involving more than $1.5 million.