MIAMI -- When former banking lawyer Kenneth Rijock was in jail awaiting trial, he had the Gainesville Sun delivered every day.
Mr. Rijock, who was convicted for laundering millions of dollars in the 1980s, was studying the sentencing habits of the judge in charge of his case.
"I found that he reduced sentences by half for people who cooperated," he said in a recent interview. "That's exactly what happened to me."
His cooperation knocked a potential eight- to 10-year term down to two years. He got out in 1992.
Mr. Rijock, who had lived the high life of money and drugs in the '80s, found himself out on the street, free but broke.
Today he is working in the banking industry again. This time, though, he's teaching bankers what he knows best: the art of laundering dirty cash.
Mr. Rijock works as a paralegal for a law firm in Miami, biding his time until he can become a full-fledged lawyer again. (Part of his sentencing forced him to resign from the bar from 1990 to 1995.)
Though his sentence didn't require it, Mr. Rijock is doing some charity work as well. He's on the lecture circuit teaching government officials how money launderers work.
"I figured my perspective ... would be helpful for people who are trying to stop money laundering," Mr. Rijock said.
And last month, Mr. Rijock made his first speech to bankers at the International Money Laundering Conference sponsored by Alert Publications Partners.
Several attendees said it was the most honest speech they'd heard about combating financial crime. Others, including officials from the Treasury Department, said a convicted criminal should not have been on the panel at all. These sources said the portrait Mr. Rijock painted of money laundering is about 10 years out of date.
Mr. Rijock is an eloquent man with a shock of gray hair and steel blue eyes. He exudes both intelligence and arrogance.
The audience was both thrilled and repelled by his radical suggestions.
Mr. Rijock accused bankers of being unwilling to stop money laundering because they don't want to lose profits. "Our banks are making money off the drug trade," he said.
His solution: an economic boycott of all known offshore money laundering banks. He said the United States doesn't have the guts to do it, though the government could probably put together a list.
"Our government has known for years about these offshore banks. The problem is political," Mr. Rijock said. "We don't want to practice gunboat diplomacy anymore. We don't want to send the Marines in to invade a little British island that's doing millions of dollars of money laundering every year. We don't do that anymore because we're supposed to be the democratic neighbor of the North."
He also said all U.S. banks should cease relationships with known money laundering offshore banks and freeze funds now in those accounts.
Mr. Rijock said the offshore banks place dirty money in correspondent U.S. accounts, making money for American banks. "If any American bank chooses profit over morality, then I suggest that their charter be the subject of revocation proceedings." he said.
In fact, Mr. Rijock predicted that next year, a major U.S. bank will have its charter revoked for violating anti-money laundering laws. "The government is going to make an example of one bank, and say, 'I'm sorry, but you don't have FDIC [insurance] anymore,'" Mr. Rijock said.
The Clinton administration will be much tougher on money launderers, Mr. Rijock predicted.
Mr. Rijock also claimed that the government is reticent to boycott offshore banks because it uses them to move central intelligence and defense money.
His last proposal for banks was to train lower-level employees in commonly practiced money laundering techniques.
Mr. Rijock said banks are good at training higher level employees. But he said they rarely send tellers, for example, to conferences or schools.
"That's the front line of defense," he said. "Later on, when you're looking at a microfilmed copy of the check, it's too late. You've missed all the nonverbal movements of this person."
Employees should be rewarded for catching suspicious transactions, he said. "Those financial incentives put the eyes and ears of law enforcement in the banking window," Mr. Rijock said.
The Best Defense
He said convicts are the best teachers for bankers. Getting an ex-money launderer to tell the tricks of the trade is the greatest defense, Mr. Rijock said.
Speech-giving is Mr. Rijock's way to get back into the mainstream. He said he expects to speak to more banking audiences. Some conference attendees approached him with requests to visit their banks, he said. But he acknowledges that many bankers see him as simply a convicted criminal, and don't want anything to do with him.
"Some will react negatively - and some positively, because they know I can do something for them," he said.
Mr. Rijock said he got into the money laundering world in 1980 when a Vietnam War buddy asked him to help him smuggle drug money out of the country.
He went to the Caribbean, opened bank accounts, and brought shipments of money there by plane and boat.
Banking regulation offshore is lax and the laundering was easy, he said. "If you had $25,000, I could form a bank for you in the Caribbean," he said.
Mr. Rijock refused to detail how he laundered tens of millions of dollars; he said he did not want to give tips to criminals.
But as a banking lawyer, he said, he was careful never to leave a paper tail. He did not have any credit cards, or own a home or car in his name.
Mr. Rijock said that in his apartment he always had about $10,000 in cash, usually kept in a stereo speaker.
He never felt guilty, he said. "It didn't bother me, because I was just looking for a new experience at the time."
He was finally caught because some crew members on a ship he used to smuggle money turned him in as part of a plea bargain.
Mr. Rijock said he'd actually gotten out of the business in 1986. He said he stopped laundering money for two reasons: because he got married that year, and because of the Money Laundering Control Act of 1986, which imposed a 20-year or $500,000 penalty.
"That's when I retired," he said. "I knew that penalty was going to deter me."
Although his wife divorced him three months into his prison sentence, Mr. Rijock knows he could have ended up much worse.
A guy he met in prison pleaded not guilty to the same money-laundering crimes. That man got a 26-year sentence - from the same judge.