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Last updated: Wed. Jan. 16, 2013 - 08:19 am EDT

Area man sentenced for hiding dirty cash

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A Whitley County businessman is serving 180 days on home detention after pleading guilty in federal court in Texas to a felony, accused of trying to hide thousands of dollars of alleged drug money.

Duane DuCharme, 71, was sentenced in late December. He pleaded guilty in July, admitting he knew a crime was being committed but did not tell authorities and that he took steps to conceal the crime.

In this case, DuCharme admitted hiding money and property at his home and the home of a relative when he knew the money and property were the proceeds of unlawful activities, according to court documents.

DuCharme also knew that another person intended to turn over the money from unlawful activities to federal authorities and, despite this knowledge, did not come forward to authorities.

The charge was filed in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Texas last spring, days after DuCharme was caught in Texas with a case full of money allegedly headed to a Mexican drug cartel.

On Dec. 20, U.S. District Judge Marcia Crone sentenced DuCharme to a three-year term of probation and ordered him to spend six months on home detention. A document outlining the reasons for the specific sentence was sealed, according to the U.S. court records system.

DuCharme founded DuCharme, McMillen & Associates in 1973, sold the tax consulting firm in the mid-1990s but stayed on as chairman of the board until 2006. The company has an office in Fort Wayne.

Online property records indicate DuCharme owns a home in Whitley County as well as property and businesses in Florida.

Records also show a horse farm in his name, as well as a number of other companies such as Allograft Innovations, a company founded in 2006 that furnishes grafts for surgery. DuCharme’s LinkedIn page lists him as the chief executive officer of Allograft and another tissue bank, New Life Generation/Medigraft in Indianapolis.

The federal government’s criminal case against DuCharme, according to public records, began May 23 – a few weeks after the silver-haired businessman was picked up outside an office supply store in Plano, Texas, with a trunk full of cash.

Investigators with the Texas Department of Public Safety and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration had been watching two vehicles outside a storage unit in Plano on April 13.

One of the vehicles had Indiana license plates and was driven by an Indiana man associated with DuCharme and his wife. The other vehicle, a Chevrolet Impala with Texas license plates, was driven by DuCharme, according to court documents.

Agents watched the men speak, saw one of the men put a blue plastic tote in the trunk of the Impala and then saw DuCharme drive to the nearby office supply store. Inside the store, he bought a shipping box.

When he emerged, agents were waiting at the car, asked him to open the trunk and found the plastic tote filled with bundles of cash “in a manner that is consistent with the way drug traffickers wrap currency prior to transporting the currency to Mexico,” according to court documents.

DuCharme told the agents he was in town on business and picked up the money to buy stock.

DuCharme’s associate offered more details, claiming he gave DuCharme $500,000 in cash, which was placed in the plastic tub and then transferred at the storage area. The man said he explained to DuCharme the money was from the sale of illegal drugs and that DuCharme had agreed to buy stock to launder the money, according to court documents.

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