Defendant Pleads Guilty In Money Laundering Scheme
PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ The top defendant in a $1.4 million money laundering case that includes the Yugoslav consul general in Chicago pleaded guilty Tuesday to lesser charges in a plea bargain.
Hubert Francis Cole, 44, of Carrollton, Texas, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States, failure to file currency reports and violating arms export regulations.
The self-described financial consultant also pleaded guilty to attempting to launder $2 million in cash he was waiting to pick up at Philadelphia International Airport when he was arrested Dec. 1.
The government, in return for Cole’s agreement to cooperate with the investigation and testify, dropped charges of money laundering and interstate travel in aid of racketeering.
Cole, also known as Milutin Colovic, faces up to 75 years in prison and a $7.25 million fine, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas J. Rueter.
In the original indictment, Cole faced the severest penalties of those indicted, including 230 years’ imprisonment and a $10.6 million fine.
U.S. District Judge Jan E. DuBois did not set a date for sentencing.
Also charged in the case are: Bahrudin Bijedic, the Yugoslav consul general in Chicago; Vjekoslov Spanjol, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Plano, Texas; Vinko Mir of New York, chairman of the board of LBS Bank of New York Inc., the U.S. branch of a major Yugoslav bank; and the bank itself.
The defendants are accused of taking part in a scheme to launder $1.4 million supplied by undercover agents posing as mobsters in 1987 and 1988. Bijedic allegedly supplied consular seals that prohibited officials from examining bundles of cash.
The plea came one day after U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh asked that surveillance tapes of conversations between Bijedic, Mir and Spanjol be reviewed privately by a federal judge. Thornburgh argued that public disclosure of the tapes would harm national security.
The documents filed Monday said that a government search revealed that Bijedic, Mir and Spanjol, ″have been overheard on foreign intelligence electronic surveillances.″
The memorandum called the tapes ″arguably relevant″ to the trial, set for June 12, but added that the prosecution did not intend to use them as evidence.
In December, Cole and Spanjol were denied bail after prosecutors played a tape recording made by an undercover Customs Service agent in which Cole boasted of his ability to tap into the computers of defense contractors.
Cole also described Spanjol as the second-ranking Yugoslavian intelligence agent in the United States.
A Dallas County jury on April 5 convicted Chandrasekhar ″Shaker″ Ivatury, 25, of solicitation of capital murder in connection with his offer of $10,000 to kill the customs agent. The jury sentenced Ivatury to 20 years in prison and a fine of $10,000.