Saco lawyer Gary Prolman is in serious trouble. In April he pleaded guilty to money laundering and now faces a possible sentence of years in federal prison and a large fine, in addition to the 177 grand he already forfeited. Prolman found himself involved in—or chose to involve himself in—a fairly complicated criminal enterprise. Without getting into the details, which are mostly irrelevant for the purposes of this post, I would say that the enterprise was not as sophisticated as, say, a large-scale mortgage-backed securities scam that would bring down large firms and leave millions of people holding the bag but was clearly more complex than many a Ponzi scheme or a typical jewelry heist-and-fence plan. And everyone involved, at the very least, had a more plausible chance at getting away with it than the bank executive who used a company credit card at strip clubs.
One relevant part of the case is that Prolman, in effect, went into business with a client. The crux of his defense theory, as far as I can tell, is that he was unaware of the illegal origins of the money he got from a client who was involved in drug smuggling and related crimes. Even if he had actually been unaware of the illegal nature of his client and partner’s income, the prosecution could pursue a theory of willful blindness—essentially, Prolman could not simply turn a blind eye to the criminal origin of his income and later plead ignorance, if it would be apparent to a reasonable person that the money came from a criminal activity. Either way, Prolman does not dispute that he went from representing David Jones to making business deals with him. The government has also accused Prolman of “smurfing,” wherein someone deliberately makes many small cash transactions that, in total, would trigger a federally-required report if made all at once, with the goal of avoiding the reporting requirement. Finally, in a separate but related criminal case, a prosecution-friendly witness (Raymond Paquette) testified at the trial of alleged co-conspirator Steven Olson that Prolman was more deeply involved in, and aware of, the criminal enterprise than Prolman has admitted to thus far; that witness is not the most credible, considering that he appears to be testifying in exchange for a reduced sentence from the government. As I mentioned in a previous post, criminal informants are useful tools for law enforcement and prosecution, but many of them lie, even under oath, to save their own necks.
Prolman may not face any more criminal charges stemming from his involvement with David Jones, but he almost certainly will be suspended from the practice of law. Going into business with a client could have sufficed to bring on an investigation by the Board of Overseers of the Bar—see Maine’s Professional Conduct rule 1.8(a), which prohibits this kind of arrangement, in many situations, as a conflict of interest—but Prolman’s guilty plea to a serious crime probably makes that issue irrelevant, per M.R.P.C. 8.4(b). Also, the smurfing accusation and the accusation under oath made by Paquette could be considered by whichever panel of bar overseers hears his case, and both involve alleged violations of M.R.P.C. 8.4(b)-(c); those rules prohibit dishonest, fraudulent, deceitful, unlawful, and criminal acts by members of the Maine bar. I do not know what defense Prolman and his counsel (Peter DeTroy) have in mind when Prolman faces the Grievance Commission, but I would speculate that, because he has already admitted in court to violations of the rules of professional conduct, he will focus on the punishment. He may get a shorter suspension, rather than an open-ended one (which can take over a decade to return from) or an outright disbarment, but it seems unlikely that he will get only a formal reprimand.