Appellate court lets Calmes convictions stand

A now-defunct Denham Springs motorcycle dealership and its former manager have failed to persuade an appellate court to reverse their convictions on federal charges related to laundering money for drug dealers.

A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans on Thursday affirmed the 2012 convictions of Kevin Paul Calmes and Calmes Motorsports LLC.

Calmes’ attorney, John McLindon, said Friday it is unlikely the case will be appealed any further.

Calmes, who was sentenced to 30 months in prison and is now serving the remainder of his time in a halfway house, was found guilty in Baton Rouge federal court on one count of money laundering, three counts of structuring large cash transactions to avoid mandatory reports to the IRS and failing to file one such report on one cash transaction that exceeded $10,000.

Calmes Motorsports, which was fined $500,000, was convicted on the same three counts of structuring a transaction to avoid IRS reporting requirements. The company also was found guilty of failing to file IRS Form 8300, which is for reporting cash transactions involving more than $10,000.

The 5th Circuit panel rejected Calmes’ and Calmes Motorsports’ contention that the evidence was not sufficient to support their convictions.

The panel also disagreed with Calmes’ claim that the trial judge erred by refusing to give the jury Calmes’ requested entrapment instruction. The judge told the jury that entrapment was not an issue in the case.

Calmes based his entrapment argument on an undercover IRS agent who had posed as a drug dealer. The agent testified at the trial that he recorded Calmes while negotiating to buy a motorcycle for cash after telling Calmes he sold only marijuana, not more powerful drugs.

The agent approached Calmes in 2008 to attempt to buy a motorcycle for more than $10,000, using cash and without filing Form 8300, the appeals court panel said. Calmes refused to conduct the transaction in cash without filing the form, but after several months, he suggested they could get around the IRS requirement by using a combination of a personal check and cash.

Calmes also agreed to conduct the transaction in a third party’s name, the panel noted. The agent provided a check for $3,400 and $10,000 in cash.

“Although Calmes may not have known that structuring to avoid filing Form 8300 was illegal, that knowledge is unnecessary for conviction,” Circuit Judges Rhesa Barksdale, Edith Clement and Priscilla Owen wrote in a 15-page opinion. “He presented no evidence to show the idea of structuring came from the Government.”

Calmes’ refusal to take $13,000 in cash without filing Form 8300 “did not absolve him from guilt for the subsequent, distinct offense of structuring a transaction to avoid the filing requirement altogether,” the panel added.

Several convicted drug dealers testified against Calmes and Calmes Motorsports.

At his sentencing, Calmes also was fined $25,000 and ordered to pay restitution of nearly $25,000.