Home > The Racketeer(12)

The Racketeer(12)
Author: John Grisham

By this time, Mr. Reed and Mr. Copeland were deeply disturbed. I instructed my banker to get rid of the money - wire it back to the source from whence it came, and do so quickly. He grappled with this for a couple of days, only to find that the account in St. Kitts had been closed. Finally, my law school pal e-mailed me instructions to wire half the money to an account in Grand Cayman and the other half to an account in Panama.

As a small-time lawyer, I had zero experience wiring money to numbered accounts, but a few moments of light Google research revealed that I was walking blindly through some of the most notorious tax havens in the world. I wished I had never agreed to work for the anonymous client, in spite of the money.

The wire to Panama bounced back - some $3.5 million. I yelled at my law school pal and he yelled at someone up the line. The money stayed put for two months, drawing interest, though we could not ethically keep any of it. Ethics also required me to take all steps necessary to protect this unwanted money. It was not mine and I certainly made no claim to it, but, nonetheless, I had to safeguard it.

Innocently, or perhaps stupidly, I had allowed the tainted money of Barry the Backhander to rest under the control of Copeland, Reed & Bannister.

Once he had possession of the hunting lodge, Barry did a quick renovation, spruced it up a little, built a spa, and put in a heliport. He leased a Sikorsky S-76 helicopter, and it took about twenty minutes to haul ten of Barry's best friends from D.C. to the hunting lodge. On a typical Friday afternoon, several shuttles were made and the partying began. By this time in his career he had cast aside most bureaucrats and lobbyists and concentrated primarily on congressmen and their chiefs of staff. At the lodge, everything was available: great food and wine, Cuban cigars, drugs, thirty-year-old scotch, and twenty-year-old women. An occasional grouse hunt got organized, but the guests were usually more preoccupied with the stunning collection of tall blondes at their disposal.

The girl was from Ukraine. During the trial - my trial - her handler said, in thickly accented English, that he had been paid $100,000 cash for the girl, who was taken to the hunting lodge and given a room. The cash had been handed over by a thug who testified, for the prosecution, that he had been one of Barry's many bagmen.

The girl died. The autopsy revealed she had overdosed after a long night of partying with Barry and his friends from Washington. There were rumors that she failed to wake up one morning while in bed with a U.S. congressman, though this could not be proven. Barry circled the wagons long before the authorities arrived on the scene. Whom the girl had slept with during her last night on earth would never be revealed. A media storm erupted around Barry, his businesses, his friends, his jets, yachts, helicopters, restaurants, resorts, and the width and depth of his sordid influence. As the press stampeded to Barry, his cronies and clients sprinted away. Outraged members of Congress chased down reporters and demanded hearings and investigations.

The story turned much worse when the girl's mother was located in Kiev. She produced a birth certificate showing her late daughter to be only sixteen years old. A sixteen-year-old sex slave partying with members of Congress at a hunting lodge in the Allegheny Mountains, barely a two-hour drive from the U.S. Capitol.

The original indictment ran on for a hundred pages and accused fourteen defendants of an astonishing variety of crimes. I was one of the fourteen, and my alleged crime had been what is commonly known as money laundering. By allowing one of Barry Rafko's faceless corporations to park money in my firm's trust account, I had supposedly helped him take dirty cash he pilfered from clients, scrub it up a bit offshore, then turn it into a valuable asset - the hunting lodge. I was also accused of helping Barry hide money from the FBI, the IRS, and others.

Pretrial maneuvering eliminated some of the defendants; several were allowed to peel off and either cooperate with the government or have their own separate trials. My lawyer and I filed twenty-two motions from the day I was indicted until the day I went to trial, and only one was granted. And it was a useless win.

The Department of Justice, through its FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office in D.C., threw everything it had against Barry Rafko and his confederates, including one congressman and one of his aides. It didn't matter if a couple of us might be innocent, nor did it matter that our version of the truth would be distorted by the government.

There I was, sitting in a crowded courtroom with seven other defendants, including the most nefarious political operative Washington had produced in decades. I was guilty all right. Guilty of stupidity for allowing myself to fall into such a mess.

After the jury was selected, the U.S. Attorney offered me one last deal. Plead to one RICO violation, pay a fine of $10,000, and serve two years.

Once again, I told him to go to hell. I was innocent.

Chapter 8

Mr. Victor Westlake

Assistant Director, FBI

Hoover Building


935 Pennsylvania Avenue

Washington, D.C. 20535

Dear Mr. Westlake:

My name is Malcolm Bannister, and I am an inmate at the Federal Prison Camp at Frostburg, Maryland. On Monday, February 21, 2011, I met with two of your agents investigating the murder of Judge Fawcett - Agents Hanski and Erardi. Nice guys and all, but I got the feeling they were not too impressed with me and my story.

According to this morning's reports in the Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Roanoke Times, you and your team are still chasing your tails and don't have much of a clue. I have no way of knowing if you have a list of credible suspects, but I can guarantee you the real killer is not on any list compiled by you and your team.

As I explained to Hanski and Erardi, I know the identity of the killer, and I know his motive.

In case Hanski and Erardi screwed up the details, and by the way their note taking was not too impressive, here is my idea of a deal: I reveal the killer, and you (the Government) agree to my release from prison. I will not consider some type of conditional suspension of my sentence. I will not consider parole. I walk out, a free man, with a new identity and protection by the guys on your side.

Obviously, such a deal will necessitate the involvement of the Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney's offices in both the Northern and the Southern Districts of Virginia.

Also, I want the reward money, to which I will be entitled. According to the Roanoke Times this morning, it has just been increased to $150,000.

Please feel free to continue chasing your tails.

As a couple of former Marines, we really should talk.

You know where to find me.

Sincerely, Malcolm Bannister #44861-127

My celly is a nineteen-year-old black kid from Baltimore, in for eight years for selling crack. Gerard is like a thousand other guys I've seen in the past five years, a young black from the inner cities whose mother was a teenager when he was born and whose father was long gone. He dropped out of school in the tenth grade and found a job as a dishwasher. When his mother went to prison, he moved in with his grandmother, who was also raising a horde of cousins. He started using crack, then selling it. In spite of a life on the streets, Gerard is a kindly soul with no mean streak. He has no history of violence and no business wasting his life in prison. He's one of a million young blacks being warehoused by the taxpayers. We're approaching 2.5 million prisoners in this country, by far the highest rate of incarceration in any semicivilized nation.

It's not unusual to get a celly you really don't like. I had one who required little sleep, and he played his iPod throughout the night. He had earphones, which are required after 10:00 p.m., but the volume was so high I could still hear the music. It took me three months to get a transfer. Gerard, though, understands the rules. He told me he once slept in an abandoned car for weeks and almost froze to death. Anything is better than that.

Hot Series
» Unfinished Hero series
» Colorado Mountain series
» Chaos series
» The Sinclairs series
» The Young Elites series
» Billionaires and Bridesmaids series
» Just One Day series
» Sinners on Tour series
» Manwhore series
» This Man series
» One Night series
» Fixed series
Most Popular
» A Thousand Letters
» Wasted Words
» My Not So Perfect Life
» Caraval (Caraval #1)
» The Sun Is Also a Star
» Everything, Everything
» Devil in Spring (The Ravenels #3)
» Marrying Winterborne (The Ravenels #2)
» Cold-Hearted Rake (The Ravenels #1)
» Norse Mythology