Drug money launderer
is sentenced

A Maui man was sentenced yesterday to two years in prison for laundering millions of dollars in connection with a multi-ton marijuana smuggling ring and filing false income tax returns.

Michael K. Ritter, 56, also forfeited $1 million to the U.S. government, which represents the value of the remaining assets he earned from his smuggling ventures, according to the U.S. Attorney's Hawaii office.

From the late 1970s to the mid-'80s, Ritter netted about $3 million by helping to smuggle at least a dozen "multi-ton loads" of marijuana into the western United States from Thailand, according to court documents.

One shipment that Ritter helped launder money for in 1986 involved three tons of marijuana worth about $5.5 million, prosecutors said.

They said Ritter's part in the operation involved depositing $2.5 million in drug-trafficking profits into accounts in Hong Kong and the Isle of Man to hide the money's origins.

Although Ritter's offenses were committed years ago, he was subject to prosecution because he continued to manage foreign offshore trust fund accounts, according to the U.S. Attorney's office.

"This case emphasizes that we are very serious about forfeiting the ill-gotten gains of drug dealers," said Ed Kubo, U.S. attorney for Hawaii. "Besides convicting them in federal court, we will aggressively go after and seize all their drug proceeds ... and we will make sure that drug dealing is never profitable."

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