Most people assume that attorneys stay on the right side of the law. Attorney-client privilege, state bar oversight, and legal ethics keep them on the straight and narrow, right?
Well, once in a while, however, there’s a bad apple in the crate. That may be the case with a well-known Texas DWI attorney.
He is none other than the “DWI Dude.”
The Story of San Antonio’s “DWI Dude”
In San Antonio, Texas, a marketing savvy attorney dubbed himself the “DWI Dude.” He claimed to specialize in helping clients avoid DWI as well as marijuana possession charges, but his true expertise, according to federal prosecutors, was committing felony offenses.
The audacious attorney may have used his attorney status, and the celebrity he created in that status, to convince a handful of powerful drug traffickers to pay him money in order to “bribe federal officials” to keep their enterprises safe from scrutiny.
As it turns out, there were no federal officials looking at the traffickers, and The Dude was merely concocting this story to line his own pockets. He managed to earn several hundreds of thousand dollars before anyone grew suspicious.
Once the Columbian drug lords realized they were being ripped off, they turned him into federal authorities. This in itself is bizarre because drug lords don’t normally turn to snitching to settle internal problems.
The “DWI Dude” Now Faces Federal Charges
With the drug lord provided information in hand, federal prosecutors launched an investigation that culminated with a litany of charges being filed against The Dude.
So far, the charges include conspiracy to commit money laundering, obstruction of justice, violation of the Kingpin Act, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and conspiracy to obstruct justice.
Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering
Money laundering is sometimes difficult to identify to the layperson, and The Dude apparently knew what he was doing. Money laundering occurs when money gained from unlawful activities is used to either carry on the illegal activity or hide the illegal activity.
The Dude took money from the drug traffickers for the purposes of some illegal activity. Whether it was bribing an elected official or simply ripping them off, it seems he intended to scam others.
Obstruction of Justice and Conspiracy to Do So
Federal obstruction of justice is committed when someone interferes with the normal and orderly administration of justice. For one to be convicted of obstruction of justice, the following must be met:
- There must be a pending judicial proceeding;
- The defendant must have known of the pending proceeding; and
- The defendant had intentions to interfere (or attempt to interfere) with proceedings.
The crime of conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice occurs when two or more persons discuss and plan to execute an act that results in the obstruction of justice.
Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud
Yet another charge The Dude faces is that of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. This crime occurs when the following prerequisites are met:
- An agreement is made between two or more people;
- The agreement involves committing mail or wire fraud; and
- An act is committed by one of the parties to execute the act of wire or mail fraud.
The parties do not need to directly discuss or acknowledge the overt act. They simply have been aware that mail or wire fraud was a realistic possibility in furtherance of an act.
Violation of the Kingpin Act
The Kingpin Act outlines illegal acts and penalties related to international drug trafficking. This Act makes it illegal for anyone in the United States to deal financially in any way with a specially designated narcotics trafficker.
Because the Columbian drug lords were on the “SDN” (specially designated narcotics traffickers) list, The Dude found himself facing a violation this Act.
This “Dude” Is in Serious Trouble
This Texas attorney is now facing some serious charges. The penalties for obstruction of justice can vary depending on the code section violated, but often it can include five to ten years in prison plus a fine.
For money laundering, The Dude faces a maximum prison sentence of 20 years, and/or a fine of $500,000 or twice the amount laundered, whichever is greater.
Penalties for conspiracy to commit mail or wire fraud can include up to five years in prison and/or a maximum $250,000 fine.
The big finish would be a conviction on the Kingpin Act charge. If convicted, the colorful DWI attorney is subject to 10 years prison time, a civil penalty of over $1 million, or even more serious criminal penalties (maximum fines near $10 million).
What would make any attorney, much less a comical “DWI Lawyer,” think that defrauding Columbian drug lords was a good idea is beyond our comprehension.