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Prominent Dallas Attorney Ray Jackson Arrest in Drug Money Laundering Scheme: a Criminal Defense Perspective

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On April 8, 2021, a Criminal Complaint with its Supporting Affidavit (“Affidavit”) was filed in Case No. 3-21MJ-329 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, styled United States of America v. Rayshun Jackson.

A copy of the Affidavit appears below:

Who is Ray Jackson?

Ray Jackson is a well-known criminal defense lawyer here in Dallas and North Texas. Not only has he built a professional reputation as a trial attorney practicing criminal law, but he is on the Board of Directors for the Dallas Area Rapid Transit, where he serves as Assistant Secretary.  He’s been a legal analyst on FOX-4.  He’s written a legal thriller, too, entitled Lone Justice, published by and available on Amazon.

According to his Amazon author biography, Ray Jackson has been named one of Dallas’ Best Lawyers by D Magazine, Dallas’ Dynamic Lawyers by Eclipse Magazine and America’s Premier Lawyers.

So, it’s no exaggeration to describe the Dallas Bar as reeling from the news that 51-year-old Rayshun Jackson has been arrested by federal authorities on some very serious felony charges in what some might describe as a storyline straight out of “Better Call Saul.”

DOJ and DEA Releases: They Have Arrested a Lawyer

Right now, what we know of this case comes from the initial filing and the accompanying news release by the Justice Department and Acting U.S. Attorney Prerak Shah.  For now, it’s a complaint.  Soon, there will be a formal indictment from the grand jury.

It is clear that the federal authorities are particularly focused upon Ray Jackson as a licensed attorney.  The fact that he is a lawyer who came into their sights during an ongoing investigation into drug dealing in the Dallas area cannot be underestimated in its impact.

Acting U.S. Attorney Shah stated:

“Attorneys swear an oath to conduct themselves with integrity and uphold the rule of law. Mr. Jackson instead chose to ignore his oath by allegedly laundering money for purported narcotics dealers. He explicitly instructed them on how to further violate the law and profit from the devastation of our nation’s opioid epidemic, lining his own pockets in the process. He will now have to face the consequences of his actions.”

The DEA also prepared its own independent news release detailing the investigation and arrest of Mr. Jackson.

It reveals that an undercover agent was involved in the investigation of Rayshun Jackson, and that the undercover agent’s involvement included handing over a backpack filled with cash to Mr. Jackson.

From the Special Agent in Charge of the DEA’s Dallas Office, Eduardo A. Chavez:

“Global drug trafficking depends on criminal money launderers to take ill-gained profits and weave a fictitious web of businesses and bank accounts to appear legitimate.  These illicit activities cannot exist without each other.  As alleged, Mr. Jackson used his law degree not in the furtherance of justice, but to line his own pockets, a true travesty of the law.  The DEA will tirelessly investigate and seek justice for drug money launderers, who enable criminal organizations to profit from those who find themselves addicted to controlled substances.”

Revelations from The Complaint

The Complaint’s Supporting Affidavit is provided by Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent Timothy Davis, who swears to the following:

  1. Since September 2019, the DEA investigation involved two DEA Agents, working undercover, along with a Confidential Source, where “numerous purchases” of hydrocodone were made from the organization’s leader, called “Dealer 1.” Affidavit, page 2.
  2. Dealer 1 agreed to introduce one of the undercover agents and the confidential source to those the organization used to launder their drug proceeds. His statements included the following: “He’s gonna clean it… He’s gonna wash it. … He’s going to explain to you in detail … I can’t …. I don’t know the ends and outs … He’s the lawyer.  I am going to take you to him and when you get done, you’ll feel comfortable….”  When asked his name, Dealer 1 responded, “Ray Jackson.” Affidavit, pp. 2 – 4.
  3. On September 3, 202, the two undercover DEA agents and their confidential source accompanied Dealer 1 to Ray Jackson’s law offices at 1700 Pacific Avenue in Dallas, Texas. Affidavit, page 4.  They met in Mr. Jackson’s personal office.  A taped conversation took place there.  Affidavit, pp. 5 -7.
  4. Fees were discussed as well as details on how Mr. Jackson would launder the proceeds. Affidavit, page 7. This included setting up shell corporations and cash businesses.  Proceeds of up to $500,000.00 per month could be processed in this manner.  Affidavit pp. 7-8.
  5. On September 12, 2020, the undercover agent and the confidential source called Mr. Jackson and told him that the “Boss” of the drug trafficking organization would use Mr. Jackson’s services. Affidavit, page 8.
  6. There was a test run of $100,000 using money delivered to Mr. Jackson at his office on September 24, 2020. Affidavit, page 9.
  7. At this time, Mr. Jackson asked for clarification of his long-term relationship with the organization if he accepted this test run. Taped conversations are included here.  Affidavit pp. 9 -10.
  8. Details of the laundering operation through the State of Wyoming were discussed, with Jackson confirming he would keep total control of the cash, stating “I will have full control. I don’t trust anybody … I don’t trust anybody else to have control over money that I am responsible for.” Affidavit, page 10.
  9. The DEA undercover agent gave Ray Jackson a backpack containing $100,000 at this meeting. Affidavit, page 10.
  10. Subsequent banking transactions involving a Wells Fargo bank account in the name of the “Jackson Law Firm” and the DEA undercover agent’s bank account occurred. Affidavit, page 11.
  11. Rayshun Jackson kept a fee of $5000 and forwarded $95,000 through these transactions, with the $5000 representing his 5% fee. Affidavit, page 11.
  12. On November 23, 2020, another $300,000 was delivered to Ray Jackson. Transactions were discussed with two transfers per week each under $50,000.  Jackson’s fee remained at 5%. Affidavit, pp 11-12.
  13. In total, there were 14 transactions involved with the Wells Fargo account and the DEA agent’s bank account, all of which are alleged to be “financial transactions” as defined by 18 U.S.C. 1956. Affidavit, page 12.

One notable thing about this case is the apparent relationship that Ray Jackson has with “Dealer 1”. From the language of the Affidavit, it sounds like it’s been an ongoing money laundering relationship. Of note, the federal authorities describe Dealer 1 as being a high-level opioid trafficker.

It’s also interesting that Ray was concerned about getting out. Maybe he’s had other relationships in the past that he couldn’t get away from?  I don’t know.

Ray isn’t currently charged in a conspiracy case with Dealer 1 so it may be possible to limit his relevant conduct to just this sting operation. But that could change in the future — or when this case gets indicted.

Money Laundering Charge and Sentencing Guidelines

The Complaint covers a time period of September 30, 2020, through March 22, 2021, and alleges violation of a single federal statute: 18 U.S.C. 1956(a)(3)(B), Money Laundering.  Complaint, page 1.

1.  The Alleged Violation

While there are over a dozen different federal statutes that can be used in money laundering prosecutions, Ray Jackson faces only allegations of violating 18 U.S.C.§1956(a)(3)(B), laundering of monetary instruments, which states:

(a) …. (3)Whoever, with the intent—… (B) to conceal or disguise the nature, location, source, ownership, or control of property believed to be the proceeds of specified unlawful activity ….

Applying the facts of the case to the statute, we can expect the AUSAs to charge each alleged transaction as a separate count (see, e.g., the following “practice tip” from the DOJ Criminal Resource Manual (emphasis added):

The legislative history indicates, and several cases have held, that each separate financial transaction should be charged separately in an individual count. For example, if an individual earns $100,000 from offense. If he then withdraws $50,000, he commits a second offense. If he then purchases a car with the withdrawn $50,000, he commits a third offense. Each transaction should be charged in a separate count. Charging multiple financial transactions in a single count is duplicitous. See, e.g., United States v. Prescott, 42 F.3d 1165 (8th Cir. 1994); United States v. Conley, 826 F. Supp. 1536 (W.D. Pa. 1993).

 For specific details about money laundering charges under federal law, read our earlier discussions in: Money Laundering and Federal Sentencing Guidelines and 5 Things to Know About Money Laundering in Texas.

2.  The Federal Sentencing Guidelines

Being a federal case, the United States Sentencing Manual with its federal sentencing guidelines (USSG) will apply.  Both the prosecution and the defense will keep the USSG in mind as they move through the proceedings.  The charge against Jackson, based upon 18 U.S.C. §1956, corresponds to 2S1.1 of the USSG (Manual, p. 586).

We’ve written before about USSG 2S1.1 as it pertains to money laundering charges, and how it uses 2B1.1 as well as other specific characteristics of the case to arrive at the final guideline calculation.  For that overview, see Money Laundering and Federal Sentencing Guidelines.

In this case, even if the focus is limited to the DEA’s undercover sting operation, the USSG calculation is going to be:  8 + 12 + 6 + 2 + 2= 30.  There will be deduction (-3) if he takes a plea deal.

This brings us to a calculated USSG base offense of 27 in Criminal History Category 1.  Refer to the Manual, and this corresponds to 70-87 months in zone D.

By my estimates, Ray Jackson is looking at 5.8 to 7.25 years behind bars.

Further USSG Considerations

Another thing to consider here is the potential impact of the prosecution of Dealer 1 insofar as the defense of Ray Jackson.  My gut feeling is that even though Dealer 1 acted as an unwitting co-conspirator in this case, introducing the undercover agents to Mr. Jackson, the U.S. Attorney’s Office may place a lot of pressure on Dealer 1 to cooperate against Ray Jackson about their past money laundering history.

They may consider the Dallas Attorney a bigger fish to fry than Dealer 1, something suggested by their news releases.  Things may change regarding these USSG calculations as a result should Dealer 1 decide to play ball with the AUSA.

If that happens, it may be possible that Ray Jackson’s relevant conduct dollar amount under 2b1.1 USSG will go way higher than just the $450,000 or so that was alleged to be directly laundered by Mr. Jackson for the DEA informant.

What Will Happen to Ray Jackson?

The criminal case has just been filed, and right now Mr. Jackson is out on bond.  And, of course, there is   always two sides to every story.

We know from the DEA that Assistant U.S. Attorney Courtney Coker, the Northern District of Texas’ Deputy Criminal Chief, is prosecuting the case along with Assistant U.S. Attorneys Juanita Fielden and Nashonme Johnson.

We must wait to hear from the defense counsel, it’s not yet time for the defense to reveal things. Mr. Jackson and his lawyers are undoubtedly very busy at the moment.

However, barring some kind of miraculous entrapment defense — and assuming the facts in the Affidavit are true, I can’t imagine how it’s possible Ray Jackson could go to trial and get a not guilty verdict from a jury.

If convicted based upon the allegations in the Complaint, he faces up to 20 years in federal prison per laundered transaction.  Look for a plea deal.

Also read:

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For more information, check out our web resources, read Michael Lowe’s Case Results, and read his in-depth article,” Pre-Arrest Criminal Investigations.”

 

 


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