A mortgage broker convicted in a scheme to launder money for a Mafia enforcer was sentenced to a year in prison Monday after a plea bargain with federal prosecutors.
Michael Hansen, who was offered a chance to plead guilty to tax violations in exchange for his cooperation in the government’s case against criminal defense lawyer Robert George, apologized for his actions.
“I’d just like to say I’m sorry,” he told the court, turning to face his family and other onlookers. “Nobody made me do this. I did this on my own.”
Prosecutors say that Hansen took $200,000 in criminal profits from Ronald Dardinski, a former client of George, and in return wrote him checks to legitimize the funds. Hansen received $40,000, which he split with George. Hansen’s lawyer said that his client was desperate and depressed at the time.
The illicit transactions, were a “serious crime of significant scope,” Judge Denise Casper said as she imposed his one-year sentence.
‘I believe that is just punishment.’
“I believe that is just punishment,” she said, describing the laundered funds as “ill-gotten moneys.”
Dardinksi, a career criminal, was working as an informant with federal drug agents as part of a sting operation. George, a well-known lawyer who has represented organized crime figures, was convicted of money laundering in June after his arrest last year.
During the trial, George’s lawyers cast doubt on the credibility of Dardinski and accused him of setting up George in retaliation for a previous financial dispute. They also argued that George was the victim of a vengeful prosecution.
Hansen began cooperating with authorities when confronted about his dealings with Dardinski and later recorded conversations with George. For his cooperation, Hansen was charged with tax violations rather than money laundering.
In sentencing arguments, Hansen’s lawyer, George Vien, said his client deserved leniency for his full cooperation.
“He did everything a cooperator could do,” Vien said. “But for his cooperation, Mr. George would not have been successfully prosecuted.”
Vien had sought a sentence of probation. The prosecution recommended a sentence of 18 months in jail.
As his family fought back tears, Hansen said he tried to “do everything they asked” and described himself as a good man who had made a terrible mistake. I’d just ask you to remember who I was before this,” he said. “I want to get back to that.”
Vien said Hansen had a hard upbringing and was abused but pulled himself up by his bootstraps to raise a family and run a successful business.
When the business collapsed during the recession, Hansen fell into a depression and became desperate for cash, he said. “He was very vulnerable,” Vien said. “He had his whole family depending on him. He made a really stupid and inappropriate decision.”
Casper said there was no dispute that Hansen laundered money and only escaped more serious charges because he agreed to work with authorities. She said that he would have probably laundered more than $200,000 if prosecutors had not intervened.
Laura Kaplan, assistant US attorney, said Hansen did not testify at George’s trial but was available to.
She said an 18-month sentence “reflects the seriousness of the offense” while taking his cooperation into account. A money-laundering conviction would have probably resulted in a four-year incarceration.