Prominent criminal defense lawyer Ronald Partee found himself in a moment straight out of the law offices of Saul Goodman, Walter White's shady attorney on Breaking Bad.
Wednesday, though, Partee did something that Saul probably wouldn't: He pleaded guilty to laundering money, which he believed had come from the sale of marijuana.
Ah, but there was no pot. And the guy in need of having his money laundered, "Maxwell Gannon"? Uh, he was an undercover agent.
Court documents tell the story, which begins with Gannon telling a woman named Mendy Forbes - who operated Forbes Newhard, a nonprofit prebankruptcy credit-counseling agency - that he was a drug dealer looking to launder the proceeds of his pot sales. (He said he wanted to buy rental homes so it'd look like his business was legit.) A bit of networking went down. Gannon introduced Forbes to "Cody Ward," who happened to be, you guessed it, an undercover agent. Forbes introduced the agents to Laura Shoop, a friend who'd also worked with her. And she also introduced Gannon to Partee.
Forbes then consulted with Partee on the best way to launder Gannon's drug money, court records say. Here's what they allegedly came up with: As part of the scheme, Forbes would deposit Gannon's drug money into the bank accounts of Forbes and Newhard and other companies. She'd then cut Gannon checks or issue him money orders and wire transfers.
But it didn't stop there. On March 28, 2012, Forbes allegedly gave Gannon a "Purchase and Sale of Business agreement" contract made to look like the agent was buying property from FCP, another company attached to Forbes. Gannon and Partee signed the contract. Forbes also gave Gannon a "certificate of completion" to make it look like he was a certified credit counselor. It was dated June 28, 2011 - about 10 months before Gannon met Forbes.
From there, Forbes allegedly created Maximus Lawn Care LLC, which she registered with the state of Missouri. The fictional business listed Maxwell Gannon as the owner and organizer, and a bank account was opened in his name with National Bank of Kansas City in Overland Park.
On March 28, 2012, Forbes and Partee opened a bank account with M&I Bank in Kansas City in the name FCP. Partee signed the signature card on the account as FCP's vice president. Forbes listed Gannon as a member of FCP and instructed him to sign the signature card.
According to court documents, Forbes told Gannon that she planned to charge him a fee for laundering the drug money, but not until she had laundered $170,000. That way, Gannon could use the money to buy larger shipments of marijuana.
On April 20, 2012, Partee approved two wire transfers from the FCP account, knowing they were for Gannon's supposed drug business, sending $5,000 to Maximus' account and $5,000 to Ward's account.
On May 25, 2012, Gannon met Partee at his law office, where they discussed storing marijuana and possibly keeping it at Forbes' home. Partee also advised Gannon on the risks of using drug couriers and how money should be transported to the West Coast to pay Gannon's supposed drug suppliers.
After that meeting, Shoop allegedly offered to store the pot at her home. Forbes also allegedly offered to invest $40,000 of her own money for the next shipment of weed. Forbes, Shoop and Gannon agreed to meet on June 19, 2012. On that day, Gannon gave Shoop and Forbes $35,000 and about 40 pounds of marijuana - and the whole plan unraveled.
That brings us to today's plea and Partee's future, which could be up to five years in federal prison.
Meanwhile, Partee's bio on his website still brags about his "Very High General Ethical Standards and Legal Ability":
Ron Partee and his firm, Fox and Partee, have been working hard in Kansas City for over 35 years to help those charged with crimes in federal and state courts obtain the best possible results. He is well-known in the KC legal community, having consistently received the AV® Preeminent Rating from LexisNexis-Martindale-Hubbell that puts him into the top 5% of all rated lawyers. This rating (5.0 out of 5.0) by his peers reflects a combination of Very High General Ethical Standards and Legal Ability. His retired partner, Byron Neal Fox, shares the same 5.0 out of 5.0 rating.
Not everyone can be as good as Saul Goodman.