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Attorney Robert A. George found guilty in money laundering case

JOSH REYNOLDS FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE/file

Attorney Robert A. George (right) faces up to 20 years in prison for participating in a money laundering scheme by helping a former Mafia enforcer legitimize profits from his past crimes. Attorney Rosemary Scapicchio is at left.

Robert A. George, a prominent attorney well known for his testy clashes with the government, was convicted in federal court in Boston Friday in a sweeping verdict that found he helped a client launder $200,000 in profits from crimes and pocketed $20,000 for his work.

All along, the client had been cooperating with the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

George, a 57-year-old father of three, appeared emotionless, staring ahead as the guilty verdicts were announced after only four hours of deliberation. Family members, who sat in support throughout the two-week trial, shook their heads in disbelief.

George did not comment when leaving the courthouse. He is slated to be sentenced Sept. 19 on seven counts of conspiracy, money laundering, and structuring bank deposits to avoid government scrutiny.

“Prosecuting money laundering is a priority of the Department of Justice,’’ US Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz said in a statement. “It is important that we investigate and prosecute those who use the financial system to conceal illegally obtained funds. We will pursue these cases wherever they lead us, even if it leads us to attorneys, who are not above the law.’’

Prosecutors had argued during the trial that he offered to help a former client, Ronald Dardinski, legitimize Dardinski’s profits from a car sales scheme and later from drug sales.

George referred Dardinski to a Dedham mortgage broker, who laundered the money by taking cash and in turn handing Dardinski checks. The broker took 20 percent from each of two transactions, for a total of $40,000, and later split it with George.

George also violated bank reporting requirements by dividing a $25,000 retainer fee he received from another client and making deposits of less than $10,000, to avoid government scrutiny, so that he could conceal that the money was from his client’s drug-dealing proceeds. The client was an undercover DEA agent.

“Attorney George traded away his integrity and his standing in the legal system and community for a simple reason, his own greed,’’ Kevin Lane, acting special agent in charge of the DEA in Boston, said in a statement.

Robert M. Goldstein, one of George’s lawyers, said outside the courtroom that George will appeal.

“We respect the jury’s verdict, but ultimately disagree with their finding and look forward to the next stage of the case,’’ he said.

The arrest of George caused quite a stir within the state’s legal community.

In 2006, he defended the convicted trash collector who maintains his innocence in the death in Cape Cod of fashion writer Christa Worthington. He has represented Mafia figures, and his work on behalf of his clients last year also exposed the FBI’s scandalous use of New England Mafia capo Mark Rossetti as an informant.

Lawyers in all areas, ranging from civil courts to white-collar crimes public defender, attended the trial and many descended on the courthouse to show support when George was arrested in March 2011.

George has practiced law in Massachusetts for more than three decades.

His lawyers questioned whether he was targeted in the investigation, and they attacked the credibility of the government’s key witness, Dardinski, an admitted Mafia enforcer and career criminal whom they accused of setting up the attorney to retaliate against him for a past financial dispute. They also questioned the DEA’s use of such an informant, who admitted to committing crimes while working for the agency.

The mortgage broker, Michael Hansen of Dover, also began cooperating with authorities after they confronted him about the dealings with Dardinski.

Hansen then recorded a conversation in which he paid George $20,000 for the scheme. George had not received any money until then.

Hansen was never charged with money laundering, and he pleaded guilty in a deal with prosecutors to a lesser charge of tax violations. He is slated to be sentenced next month.

Peter Manso - who wrote a book, “Reasonable Doubt,’’ about the Worthington case and who befriended George during that trial - maintained his support for him Friday.

He questioned the DEA’s decision to pay Dardinski about $27,000 for his work as an informant, more than George received for helping him launder money.

“It goes beyond justice,’’ he said. “How much money has gone into this investigation? It’s unreal.’’

He added, “The operative question is, ‘Why have they gone after Bob George?’’

One juror, who asked to remain anonymous because of the publicity surrounding the case and because of the mention of Mafia figures involved, said the panel came to a quick conclusion about George’s guilt based on the recorded conversations between him and Dardinski.

The juror said that Dardinski was clearly a questionable figure, but George knew what he was talking about in the recordings. He is a lawyer who knows about money laundering schemes, the juror noted.

“There was a substantial amount of evidence against the defendant,’’ he said. “It was evidently clear that he did have an understanding of where [the money] came from.’’

In their closing arguments Friday, federal prosecutors denied that George was targeted.

“These are the words from the defendant’s mouth,’’ Assistant US Attorney Laura Kaplan told jurors, holding up a CD of the recorded conversations. “This is evidence that is not susceptible to lying, to bias, to motivation. The tape can’t lie.’’

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