My voice probably carried around the block. Sitting in my lawyer’s office he gave me the news, “Jeff the Feds have just upped the ante. They have brought Tax charges against you including tax evasion.”
Up until that moment I had been a cowed defeated man. I was a child entangled in the undoing of my own design. But the rage I felt at that moment exploded inside me and boomed forth again and again, “Tax Evasion?! Tax Evasion?! Tax Evasion?!”
The truth was I had put all the money I made from my one pot deal into my legitimate business so that I could actually pay taxes on that money. The one Government Agency that I truly feared was the I.R.S. And now I was being told that I was in danger for actually paying taxes. They called it “Laundering” taking money received from something illegal not declaring it as being illegal but, putting it through a legitimate business inorder to pay taxes on it.
“Calm down Jeff,” my Lawyer.
“Honey relax,” my dear Wife.
“Jeffrey Meranto!” the voice of my lovely Mother echoed within my heart.
My Mother had died prior to my arrest yet she was continually in my thoughts through those difficult times. Often I would hear her voice telling me what to do at some particular moment like right then, I heard her stern tone of voice that she used whenever I was acting up and she wanted me to settle down, “Jeffrey Meranto.”
Slowly and in great detail I described to my Wife and my Lawyer how I had taken every dime and entered it into my business accounts so I could protect myself from Tax charges. I never spent one penny of that money prior to putting it through my Jet Ski business. As my explanation wound to an end my Lawyer stood up walked behind me and said, “Schmuck.”
“Schmuck?! Schmuck?! Schmuck?! You be the schmuck! You’re his Attorney, NOT his Father! Don’t you Dare Ever speak to MY HUSBAND like that again!” It was my Wife’s turn to explode in rage. She had jumped up running towards my Lawyer shouting and shaking her small fist in his face. “Never Ever Again. Do You UNDERSTAND?!?”
That day brought me somewhat back to reality. I was in danger and not only was I in danger I needed to keep my mind sharp get back in focus. I needed to make hard decisions that would affect not only myself but, the life of my Wife and family.
My Lawyer explained to me that because I was up to that point in time unwilling to cooperate with the Prosecutors The Government was “playing hard ball” trying to put so much pressure on me that I would be forced to “Cooperate” as they liked to phrase it.
By “Cooperate” they meant telling them not only about who I obtained the Marijuana from but, they also wanted me to give them information on any and everyone else that I may have known who used, sold, or purchased Marijuana EVER and any and all criminal activities that anyone known to me may have been involved in.
The truth was that I was willing to cooperate as far as it involved myself ONLY. I was a businessman I didn’t know any “criminals” or if I did they had kept their illegal doings to themselves. I only knew about the young college kid who had helped me get the stuff.
Sadly, I learned later after my conviction that that young college kid had been nabbed prior to his ever coming into my place of business the first time. In my indictment there was mention of a Confidential Informant that led the Authorities to me in the first place. “Who could it be?” This tormented me for months. Nobody knew except my one buddy and he was in the same sinking boat that I was in. Turned out the young college kid got picked up for pot and they made him a deal. Since they didn’t want to bust a lot of students they told him that it would be good for him to lead them to older people ( like me ) all he needed to do was see if he could find anyone who was “interested” in buying or selling Marijuana and they’d tell him what to do from there. How he came up with the idea of buying large ticket items with cash as a lure is unknown to me. Where he got the money and how many other people he lured into buying from him is also unknown to me. But I still wonder how many people have ended up in prison because The Government created a situation and tempted some dumb yokel like myself into getting in over his head. Like my Lawyer once said, “Schmuck.”
It turned out that from beginning to end The Feds not only knew EVERYTHING but, I bought the stuff from one Government Agent and sold it to another Agent. It just happened that I opened my mouth to a bartender who introduced me to a Federal Agent who happened to be working on something totally unrelated.
(To this day my Wife won’t even allow me to buy a lottery ticket, “What, with your luck? Are you kidding me?”)
So it was plain, even prior to my knowledge concerning the student’s role in my arrest, that The Government wanted information and they didn’t really care how valid the information was, if people were actually committed to lives of crime, or if the information was somehow manufactured. They just wanted INFORMATION.
Later I asked my Lawyer, “So if I had only declared it as money received from selling Marijuana then I’d have been better off?” “Naw” he said, “They’d have charged you with something else. They’ve always got an angle.”