LOS ANGELES—The wife of Sen. Lito Lapid felt “very relieved” that her cash smuggling case is over following her sentencing by the US district court to three years of probation, said her lawyer Eliot Krieger. The probation period includes five months of home confinement.
Krieger said that Marissa Lapid, who remains confined in her residence in Las Vegas, Nevada, may be able to return to the Philippines “after five months of home confinement with the permission of the Probation Department.”
Marissa Lapid “is very relieved to have the whole thing over,” Krieger told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Krieger said that in a plea agreement that he negotiated, Lapid pleaded guilty to cash smuggling and conspiracy to structure transactions “with intent to evade reporting requirements.”
Lapid was charged before US Magistrate Judge Peggy Leen in Las Vegas and sentenced on Monday (Tuesday in Manila).
The reporting violations stemmed from a series of cash deposits made by Lapid in different banks in Las Vegas from January 2009 to June 2010 totaling more than $150,000.
Banks are required to submit to the federal government currency transaction reports on cash deposits that exceed $10,000. Lapid’s cash deposits ranged from $5,000 to $9,000.
All the deposits, plus the $40,000 confiscated from Lapid when she arrived at McCarran International Airport on Nov. 27, 2010, were forfeited by the US government, Krieger said. The lien placed on Lapid’s Las Vegas properties to cover her $500,000 bail has been released, he added.
Lapid was held at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center in Las Vegas for three days after she was arrested on January 15 for allegedly smuggling $40,000 into the US on Nov. 27, 2010.
ICE special agent Albert Giangregorio, of the agency’s Money Laundering Asset Removal Group, stated in an affidavit that Lapid “knowingly concealed $40,000” when she arrived at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas on Nov. 27, 2010.
Lapid, a permanent resident or green card holder, declared in the US Customs and Border Protection form that she was carrying $10,000 and P10,000 (equivalent to $225), Giangregorio said in his affidavit. After searching her luggage, ICE agents found $40,000 in two socks and a cloth bag hidden in the lining, he added.
US federal law requires arriving passengers to declare any currency or monetary instrument totaling $10,000 or more. Violators are fined a maximum of $500,000 and the money recovered is confiscated by the US government. Bulk cash smuggling is also punishable by a maximum 10-year imprisonment, according to a source from Homeland Security.
Court documents showed that when lapid was questioned by customs officials about the undeclared money, she said “I’m sorry… it’s for my house.”