H. Harris Pepper a Kentucky attorney helped to launder money that was linked to illegal online gambling operations. Since appearing in court, Pepper decided to cut a deal to avoid a possibly lengthy prison sentence.
The 53-year-old admitted being a willing participant in a number of illegal acts that a friend, Douglas Booth, had instigated. Between 2008 to 2016, he worked with Booth to help wash hundreds of thousands of dollars that the latter earned between illegal gambling websites, many of which had originated out of Costa Rica. Booth used the proceeds to buy a number of real estate properties, and Pepper helped cover up Booth’s ownership in his role as an immovable solicitor.
Knowing that Costa Rica has been a hotbed for offshore gambling sites targeting U.S. citizens for many years, the law enforcement agencies scan the web to identify those behind the sites. Following the digital traces wasn’t difficult, and investigators were able to determine Pepper’s presence after Booth’s operations were discovered last year. Last year, Booth was charged with five counts of failing to file federal tax returns, four counts of money laundering and a single count of each conspiracy to commit money laundering and illicit wagering information transmission. He pleaded guilty to all indictments.
Earlier this month the U.S. Attorney’s Office went after Pepper, charging him with a number of crimes related to the illegal activity. Yet when he’d gone before the U.S. On Thursday, District Judge Justin Walker had already worked out an agreement to plead with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, allowing him to potentially obtain a sentence much lighter than would otherwise have been levied. Because of the deal he could be looking at a maximum of 366 days instead of 20 years behind bars.
Just because he signed the bargain and made a deal to avoid spending his remaining years in prison does not necessarily mean that the judge will approve. Walker is reportedly mulling about his options now, and will decide whether to accept the agreement in the next three months or not. Pepper returns on June 11 to face the judge and discover his fate.
Several law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, have investigated the case. US Attorney Russell Coleman said: “The rule of law means that everyone is held to the same standard, to include attorneys and influential members of communities like Bowling Green. This result is the product of a diligent career federal prosecutor and strong investigative work by the IRS.”