The Ontario Court of Appeal has lengthened a Toronto lawyer’s sentence for money laundering, citing his status as a lawyer a “significant aggravating factor” that damages society’s confidence in the legal profession.“Lawyers like the appellant who choose to use their skills and abuse the privileges attached to service in the law not only discredit the vast majority of the profession, but also feed public cynicism of the profession,” wrote Justice David Doherty for the panel of judges also made up of Justice Eleanore Cronk and Justice Gloria Epstein.
“In the long run, that cynicism must undermine public confidence in the justice system.”
Simon Rosenfeld, whose practice has been restricted by the Law Society of Upper Canada, was convicted by a jury at the Superior Court of Justice in February 2005 of two counts of laundering the proceeds of crime and one count of attempting to possess money obtained by crime, according to the appeal court decision.
Rosenfeld was handed sentences totalling three years, and ordered to pay a fine of $43,230.
Rosenfeld appealed the convictions and sentence, and the Crown appealed the sentence. The appeal court sided with the Crown, lengthening the sentence to five years.
In March 2002 while in Florida, Rosenfeld met RCMP Insp. William Majcher, who posed as a front man for a big Columbian drug cartel, according to Doherty. In May 2002, Rosenfeld agreed to launder cash that Majcher said were proceeds from the cartel’s global cocaine trade. Majcher said the cartel brought in $3 million each month and needed the money laundered.
Rosenfeld agreed to be paid eight per cent to provide the services required, wrote Doherty.
In June 2002 in Toronto, Majcher paid Rosenfeld $250,000, which he was told were proceeds of the cartel’s cocaine operations.
Rosenfeld then laundered the money by way of transactions and bank accounts under the names of shell corporations, and the funds eventually ended up in the Florida accounts of the supposed drug cartel.
Weeks later, Majcher gave Rosenfeld US$190,000, which he laundered through a similar
process, said Doherty.
The RCMP was forced to wrap up its undercover operation related to Rosenfeld in August 2002 after the FBI decided to end a related operation, wrote Doherty. Rosenfeld was arrested and had received about $43,000 through the two transactions.
The Crown had “an overwhelming case against” Rosenfeld, wrote Doherty. Evidence against him included intercepted communications, videotaped meetings, and “highly incriminating material” found in his home when he was arrested. “The appellant did not testify,” wrote Doherty.
“No substantive defence was advanced at any time in the lengthy trial, including in trial counsel’s closing address. Nor could counsel for the appellant, when invited to do so in this court, suggest any possible defence on the merits.”
Law Times was unable to speak with Rosenfeld’s appeal lawyer by press time.
The Court of Appeal gave a pair of reasons for why Rosenfeld’s status as a lawyer was aggravating.
“First, apart from the specifics of the offences committed by the appellant, those privileged to practise law take on a public trust in exchange for that privilege and the many advantages that come with it,” wrote Doherty.
“Lawyers are duty bound to protect the administration of justice and enhance its reputation within their community. Criminal activity by lawyers in the course of performing functions associated with the practice of law in its broadest sense, has exactly the opposite effect.”
The appeal court said the second reason relates to specific aspects of this case.
“The wiretap interceptions and Majcher’s evidence demonstrate that the appellant appreciated the advantage to a money laundering operation of both the solicitor’s exemption from the reporting conditions and the client/solicitor privilege,” wrote Doherty.
“The appellant’s willingness to prostitute his legal services and abuse the special privileges associated with them are significant aggravating features of his conduct.”