BY TERRIE MORGAN-BESECKER (STAFF WRITER)
A Scranton woman charged with illegally structuring bank withdrawals to evade reporting requirements is seeking to have the charges dismissed.
Christopher Powell, attorney for Ann Pelicci, argues the federal statute that makes the action a crime is unconstitutional because it is so vague that it does not properly put a defendant on notice he or she is committing a crime.
Mrs. Pelicci and her husband, Leroy, now deceased, were indicted on March 11 on 49 counts of structuring transactions to evade reporting requirements and 49 counts of causing banks to fail to file currency transaction reports. Federal prosecutors said the couple intentionally withdrew $431,5000 in mostly $9,000 increments over a one-year period to evade laws that require banks to report any transactions of $10,000 or more to the Internal Revenue Service. Dr. Pelicci, who owned the Pelicci Pain Relief Center in Scranton, died on March 20. The case remains pending against Mrs. Pelicci.
Mr. Powell contends the money structuring law requires prosecutors show a defendant knew the conduct was a crime and willfully committed the offense. The law is so vaguely worded, however, that it could lead to honest misinterpretation of what is legal and illegal, he said.
“The problem is that it reaches a substantial amount of innocent conduct and thereby fails to establish minimal guidelines to law enforcement,” Mr. Powell said.
Mr. Powell also notes that money structuring charges are nearly always filed in conjunction with other crimes allegedly committed by a defendant, such as money laundering. Mrs. Pelicci is not charged with any other offenses as the money involved was legitimately earned, he said.
“It is unfair to criminally prosecute individuals who subjectively and honestly believe they have not acted criminally,” Mr. Powell said.
The U.S. attorney’s office will have an opportunity to respond to the motion. A judge will issue a ruling at a later date.