BY bill lodge
Advocate staff writer
August 03, 2012
Kevin Paul Calmes, manager of Calmes Motorsports LLC in Denham Springs, was convicted Wednesday by a jury in Baton Rouge federal court on a charge that he laundered money for drug dealers.
“The money-laundering rules and regulations were designed to alert law enforcement to potential illegal activity,” U.S. Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux Jr. said afterward.
When those rules are not followed, Cazayoux said, “that allows illegal activities to go unchecked. In this case, drug dealers were shielded from scrutiny.”
Calmes, 40, was stoic during the reading of the verdict and left the courthouse without comment. His attorney, John S. McLindon, said Calmes would not speak with reporters.
McLindon said Calmes’ conviction on five of seven felony counts was an unexpected disappointment.
“I thought he (Calmes) would be acquitted on all charges,” McLindon said. “He’s going to keep his head held high.”
McLindon added there would “in all likelihood be an appeal.”
Both Calmes and his family’s motorcycle and all-terrain vehicle dealership were convicted on three counts related to their handling of cash transactions greater than $10,000. The transactions were structured in a ways that avoided the filing of cash reports that would have drawn the attention of the Internal Revenue Service and other federal agencies.
Both Calmes and the company also were convicted on a charge of failing to file IRS Form 8300, which is for reporting cash transactions involving more than $10,000.
Both Calmes and the company were found not guilty on a single charge of conspiracy to launder money. Calmes also was acquitted on one of his two money-laundering counts. And the dealership was acquitted on two counts of money laundering.
“I’m sad for the company (Calmes Motorsports),” said the firm’s attorney, C. Frank Holthaus. “I’m sure an appeal will be taken. I expected the company to be acquitted on the conspiracy and all other charges.”
Holthaus said he was surprised to see acquittal on the conspiracy charge was immediately followed by conviction of Calmes on money-laundering and structuring charges and conviction of the dealership on structuring charges.
“That smells of a compromise verdict,” Holthaus said. “We don’t know that, of course.”
But Holthaus said questions about a possible compromise may factor into an appeal of the verdict.
Cazayoux said he saw confusion, not compromise, in the verdict.
“I think these jurors did the best job they could,” Cazayoux said. “All of these charges are very complex. And the conspiracy charge is especially complex. It’s not surprising that a jury could be confused on that particular charge.”
Visiting U.S. District Judge Lance M. Africk, of New Orleans, presided at the eight-day trial that ended after 17 hours of jury deliberation.
“My hat goes off to you,” Africk told the jury of seven women and five men.
During the trial, Holthaus and McLindon attacked the credibility of several convicted drug dealers who testified against Calmes and the dealership.
McLindon told the jury such witnesses “lie to get out of jail, lie to stay out of jail.
And Holthaus argued the drug dealers needed no help from Calmes to avoid federal cash transaction reports on amounts greater than $10,000.
Holthaus said drug dealers are well aware of the $10,000 limit.
“They know it and live it,” Holthaus said
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Shubhra Shivpuri told jurors: “Kevin was the brain trust.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Rene I. Salomon added: “That’s what a good money-launderer he is. He is Kevin Calmes, and he is guilty as sin.”
The prosecutors also reminded jurors that an undercover IRS agent, who posed as a drug dealer, recorded Calmes instructing him on ways a $13,000 motorcycle could be purchased without filing a cash transaction report.
After the verdict, Africk, with the prosecutors’ consent, ruled that Calmes may remain free on bond until his sentencing on Oct. 24.