Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

UNITED STATES v. BLAREK

May 21, 1998

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA against ANTONY ALEXANDER BLAREK II and FRANK V. PELLECCHIA, Defendants.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: WEINSTEIN

MEMORANDUM, JUDGMENT AND ORDER

 WEINSTEIN, Senior District Court Judge:

 I. Introduction

 II. Facts

 
A. Charges
 
B. Evidence
 
C. Verdict
 
D. Forfeiture Stipulation
 
E. Presentence Report Computations
 
F. Sentencing Motions

 III. Law

 
A. Sentencing Statute: 18 U.S.C. § 3553
 
1. Sufficient But Not Greater Than Necessary
 
2. Seriousness of the Offense, Adequate Deterrence, Protection of the Public, and Correctional Treatment
 
B. Traditional Sentencing Rationales
 
1. Kant's Retributive Just Desert Theory
 
2. Bentham's Utilitarian Theory
 
3. Sanctions in Strict Retributive and Utilitarian Models
 
C. Utility and Retribution Under Sentencing Guidelines
 
D. Deference to Sentencing Judge on Guidelines' Critical Sentencing Issues
 
E. Application of the Guidelines
 
1. Heartland
 
2. Departures

 IV. Law Applied to Facts

 
A. Guidelines Computations
 
1. Base Offense Level
 
2. Knowledge of Drug Trafficking Source
 
3. Amount of Funds
 
4. Supervisory Role
 
5. Obstruction of Justice
 
6. Total Computations
 
B. Traditional and Statutory Sentencing Rationales
 
1. Incapacitation
 
2. Rehabilitation
 
3. Deterrence
 
4. Retribution
 
5. Sufficient But Not Greater Than Necessary
 
C. Departures
 
1. Not a Heartland Case
 
2. Vulnerability of Blarek and Pellecchia
 
3. Pellecchia's Medical Condition
 
4. Duress, Family Circumstances, and Reduced Culpability
 
D. Other Considerations
 
E. Individual Sentences
 
1. Blarek
 
2. Pellecchia

 V. Conclusion

 I. Introduction

 This sentencing presents the unusual case of two talented decorators whose desires to rise in the ranks of their profession while having access to unlimited funding for their creative endeavors induced them to become the facilitators, through money washing, of a ruthless and notorious Colombian drug cartel's operations.

 A long term of incarceration and severe monetary penalties that will strip defendants of all their assets is required. The sentences are designed to penalize the defendants for their criminal behavior and to deter other business and professional people from assisting drug traffickers.

 II. Facts

 A. Charges

 Defendants Blarek and Pellecchia were arrested in March 1996. They were charged with Racketeering, 18 U.S.C. § 1962(c), Racketeering Conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d), and Conspiring to Launder Monetary Instruments, 18 U.S.C. §§ 371 and 1956(h), for their alleged involvement in the activities of the Santacruz faction of the Cali Colombia drug mob. Blarek was additionally charged with one count of Interstate Travel in Aid of Racketeering. 18 U.S.C. § 1952(a)(1). By way of indictment, the government sought the forfeiture of defendants' property traceable to their alleged criminality. Both defendants pleaded not guilty.

 B. Evidence

 Blarek, while operating his own interior design firm in Coconut Grove, Florida, met Pellecchia in 1980. They worked together, and became intimate, cohabitating as homosexual partners.

 Quickly they established a new decorating company. Blarek was President and Pellecchia Vice-President. The venture was successful. Defendants designed, remodeled, and renovated homes and offices for a broad range of private persons and businesses.

 Beginning in the early-1980's, the nature of defendants' operation changed. From that time forward they worked almost exclusively for a single, ill-famed and powerful criminal client -- Jose Santacruz Londono.

 Blarek met Santacruz by chance in 1979 during a visit to friends in Colombia. He agreed to work for Santacruz, designing the interior of the drug lord's new ostentatious home. Blarek was paid a handsome sum for this work. So extraordinary was the dwelling, its furnishings, and its equipment that its photograph appeared on the cover of a major American interior design magazine.

 Other dealings with Santacruz followed. Over a twelve year period, the defendants designed and decorated a number of offices and living spaces for Santacruz, his wife, his mistresses, and his children. Defendants provided everything from blue prints and construction designs to lighting, appliances for huge kitchens, carpeting, draperies, furniture, artwork, and even specially produced crockery and flatware.

 The projects presented no simple decorating task. Some homes contain their own beauty salons, others have ornate marble and granite work with stone that was selected by the defendants in Italy. Defendants were responsible for obtaining unblemished cattle for leather, as well as the very best equipment and electrical materials from the United States and abroad for Santacruz and the various apartments of his wife and mistresses. Some residences were refurbished with elaborate secret compartments. Expense was of almost no significance as an inhibitor to artistic imagination.

 Defendants were extraordinarily proud of their designs. At the trial every facet of their work was described by them in great detail with the aid of video cassettes, photographs, and samples.

 It was clear that designing was more than a livelihood for these defendants. It was their passion. Yet, they were apparently unaware of the irony of their trial situation. While listening to a defendant's descriptions of the embellished bedrooms and recreation areas created for the children of Jose Santacruz, and how much fun they would provide for these young people, the jury could not help but reflect on the thousands of teens whose lives had been ruined by Cali cartel drugs sold for the cash used to pay for Santacruz's extravagant lifestyle.

 There is little doubt that defendants delivered exceptional design services to Santacruz. They also knowingly provided something even more valuable to him -- a method for laundering his drug cash in the United States and converting it to assets movable to Columbia. Defendants laundered, spent, and were compensated with millions of dollars, the proceeds of the cartel's profitable drug trade in the United States.

 Defendants knowingly laundered tainted cash for Santacruz in the United States in order to continue exercising their own craft and to enhance their own lives. They could not help but be aware of the illegal drug-related activities of their client. Both Blarek and Pellecchia knew who Jose Santacruz was, what he did, and from where his money was derived. Yet, each voluntarily agreed to, and in fact did, "wash" his drug proceeds. They converted huge amounts of currency that was delivered to them secretly in boxes, paper sacks, duffel bags, and an expensive designer sachel into assets the drug cartel could remove from this country.

 Elaborate and elusive bookkeeping methods were developed in order to keep track of the funds received from Santacruz, while at the same time protecting his identity. Defendants' secretary, a key government witness at the trial, was told not to record Santacruz's name on any company documents or bookkeeping ledgers, and not to disclose when the defendants traveled to meet with him or his agents in Colombia.

 Feigned trips to countries like Spain hid the fact that defendants were in Columbia meeting with a drug lord. Defendants lied about the identity of their client to others, informing a number of suppliers that they worked for Spanish royalty or prominent individuals in other countries. Defendant Blarek even bleached out entries in his passport to hide the extent of his travel to Colombia.

 Nearly all transactions between Santacruz and defendants were in cash. Defendants traveled to Miami, New York City, and other pre-determined locations to receive large sums of money from Santacruz's couriers. Payments as high as one million dollars at a time were hand-delivered to defendants in piles of fifty and one-hundred dollar bills. Defendants moved the cash between cities, traveling by car or train to avoid airport searches.

 Portions of the funds were deposited in defendants' safe deposit boxes, or in bank accounts in amounts of less than $ 10,000 at a time to avoid federal bank transaction reporting requirements. See 31 C.F.R. § 103.22; see also 31 U.S.C. § 5324. In addition, defendants own accountant, who pleaded guilty to money laundering and testified as a government witness, converted some one million dollars of the drug cash into checks for the defendants, thus "cleaning" the money for routine use in defendants' business operations.

 Over the years, defendants were visited on a number of occasions by members of the United States Drug Enforcement Agency. They informed defendants that Santacruz was a drug trafficker and inquired if the defendants knew where he could be found. On at least one occasion, in 1987, Blarek lied to the agents, telling them that he had not seen Santacruz since 1980 even though he and his co-defendant in fact had, and continued to have, extensive contact with Santacruz until his death in March, 1996.

 Taped telephone conversations between defendant Blarek and a government witness unequivocally proved that both defendants were aware of the nature of Santacruz's business, and that, if caught, they would attempt to conceal the fact that they were engaged in illegal activity for the drug trafficking organization.

 Despite their covert actions and plans, defendants flaunted their own illegal income. On Santacruz's drug money, defendants lived lavish lives. Their home, "Villa Vecchia," in an exclusive area in San Francisco, California, reflects an affluent lifestyle. Their vehicles included a Mercedes-Benz automobile and Harley Davidson motorcycles. Their clothing was impecable and of the highest of quality. For their ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.