Florida Record

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Tampa attorney suspended 3 years following federal conviction regarding marijuana money

By Karen Kidd | Jul 21, 2017

Tampa attorney Joe Manuel Gonzalez has been suspended for three years following a May 4 Florida Supreme Court order after his 2016 guilty plea to a felony for structuring financial transactions to avoid currency requirements in a marijuana case.

Gonzalez, whose suspension was retroactive to Dec. 3, 2016, entered a federal plea agreement for trying to assist two clients, one an informant and the other an undercover federal agent, hide proceeds from illegal marijuana sales, according to a news release issued by the U.S. Attorney's Office for Florida's Middle District. The informant and undercover federal agent, posing as his brother, told Gonzalez their marijuana operation earned between $30,000 and $50,000 each month and they needed a safe place to deposit those funds, according to the press release.

Gonzalez described to the so-called "brothers" how to set up and make deposits into bank accounts in a way that would avoid law enforcement detection and he established a bank account under the name of a fictitious trust, the U.S. Attorney's Office said in its news release. Gonzalez also made initial deposits into the account, using funds he'd been told came from the marijuana business. On two occasions, Gonzalez structured the cash deposits into separate transactions of less than $10,000 with an eye toward avoiding currency reporting requirements and law enforcement detection.

Gonzalez' subsequent plea agreement was filed in U.S. District Court in July 2016, soon after federal charges were brought against him, and announced the following month in a news release issued by the U.S. Attorney's Office for Florida's Middle District. The plea agreement included a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The Florida State Bar announced Gonzalez's suspension and the Supreme Court's order June 29.

Gonzalez was admitted to the bar in Florida on Oct. 30, 1981, according to his profile at the state bar website. Gonzalez had no other discipline before the state bar for at least 10 years, according to his profile.

Gonzalez was suspended Nov. 3, 2016, which became effective early the following month, according to his conditional guilty plea filed with the state Supreme Court. Gonzalez also agreed to pay the state bar's costs of $1,269.26.

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