Thursday, December 9, 2021

Top Dallas defense lawyer to plead guilty to using law firm to launder drug money


Prominent Dallas lawyer and former DART board member Ray Jackson has agreed to plead guilty to a federal money laundering charge for trying to legitimize what he thought was drug money for narcotics traffickers, court records show.

Jackson, 51, of The Jackson Law Firm, was arrested in April following a sting operation.

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The terms of his plea agreement call for him to serve five years in prison and to forfeit $20,000 in return for pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering, court records show. The guilty plea does not become official until a judge approves it. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for Wednesday in Dallas federal court.

Jackson initially faced up to 20 years in prison for each financial transaction. His attorney could not be reached Friday for comment.

A criminal defense lawyer, Jackson served on the Dallas Area Rapid Transit board from 2017 until earlier this year after being appointed to represent Dallas by the City Council. He declined to seek reappointment to the DART board following his arrest, an agency official said.

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Jackson also gained notice for representing former council member Don Hill in his high-profile 2009 federal public corruption trial.

The federal case against Jackson began when a business associate and former client of his sold drugs to an undercover DEA agent.

The associate, known in court records as “Person A,” ran an opioid trafficking operation. When the agent asked about someone who could launder about half a million dollars’ worth of drug proceeds, the dealer recommended Jackson.

“Person A vouched for Jackson’s trustworthiness,” court records show.

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The dealer told the DEA agent: “He’s gonna clean it. He’s gonna wash it,” records show.

The dealer then took the undercover agent to Jackson’s law office on Pacific Avenue in Dallas in September 2020, authorities said. During the meeting, the agent told Jackson he needed to launder about “half a mil a month,” according to a federal complaint.

Jackson said he would use his law practice bank accounts to launder cash from the drug sales and return it to the dealer using multiple wire transfers.

A DEA complaint described the following alleged exchange:

“It’s straight dope money,” the undercover agent said.

“I don’t care where the money comes from,” Jackson said.

The two negotiated a 5% fee for Jackson for his services regarding the drug money, prosecutors allege.

“Mr. Jackson suggested setting up a ‘shell corporation,’ as well as a cash business like a coin laundry or car wash that would make it difficult for authorities to track proceeds,” the U.S. attorney’s office said.

Jackson said he could have everything ready in two to four weeks, and he agreed to a $100,000 “trial run” with the promise of more business, the DEA alleges.

“This dude has been leading us. We are successful because of him,” the dealer allegedly told the undercover agent after the meeting. “Ray is the bomb. … He’s a thug, he’s just got a law degree.”

The undercover agent in September returned to Jackson’s office to give him $100,000 in cash that he said had come from drug dealing, according to the DEA.

“I can get out at any point, right? Long as y’all got your money?” Jackson allegedly asked.

The undercover agent told Jackson he could leave the scheme when he was ready, authorities said. Jackson warned him to “speak in code” when trying to reach him and said he would not communicate anything important in a text, according to the DEA.

“You take care of me and I am gonna take care of you,” Jackson allegedly told the undercover agent.

The undercover agent returned to Jackson’s office in late November to give him an additional $300,000 in reported drug proceeds, the federal complaint says. Jackson asked if he’d taken steps to make sure the money didn’t smell like drugs, according to the DEA. The agent told Jackson he had.

A Jackson Law Firm bank account made multiple deposits, each less than $50,000, and Jackson kept his agreed-upon percentage of the money as his fee, authorities said.

Jackson received his law degree in 1996 from Texas Southern University, and he obtained his Texas law license the same year, according to state bar records.

He has received six disciplinary actions since 2009, including reprimands and suspensions, according to public records. In the most recent case, the State Bar of Texas issued him a 12-month probationary suspension that began Aug. 1 related to his dealings with a client in a criminal case, records show.


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