Nov. 18 — Radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh may have violated state money-laundering laws in the way he handled the money he used to buy the prescription drugs to which he was addicted, law enforcement officials in Florida and New York told ABCNEWS.
A conviction on such charges in Florida would be a first-degree felony, punishable by up to 30 years in prison.
Limbaugh returned to the airwaves this week after five weeks of rehabilitation for his admitted addiction to prescription painkillers.
His lawyer denied today there was any foundation for a money-laundering prosecution.
"There's no basis for these charges. He has not committed any acts of money laundering and he absolutely denies it," lawyer Roy Black told ABCNEWS. "I can assure you — and Rush assures the listeners to his radio station — when we can, we will tell the story, and he will tell it himself. Everybody will see what has really gone on here."
Limbaugh makes an estimated $35 million a year and had no shortage of legally earned money to the buy the painkillers to which he became addicted.
Authorities say they became aware two years ago, during an investigation of New York bank US Trust, that Limbaugh had taken between 30 and 40 cash withdrawals from his account in amounts just under $10,000.
Banks must file a report to the government if someone withdraws more than $10,000 at once.
Limbaugh's lawyers confirm that as part of US Trust's service, a bank employee personally delivered cash to Limbaugh at his New York studio in amounts of $9,900 or so.
"That in itself is a suspicious activity: They are structuring their transaction to avoid reporting to the government, and the bank is required to file with the federal government something called a suspicious activity report," said Jack Blum, an expert on financial crimes.
Limbaugh's lawyers say it was US Trust that suggested the arrangement. In July 2001 the bank paid a $10 million fine because of the Limbaugh transactions and many others like it.
Limbaugh's name was not made public at the time but officials told ABCNEWS details were forwarded to state and federal investigators in Florida.
"Now the problem will be: Did he then assist his drug supplier in hiding the proceeds from the government?" said Blum.
Limbaugh's lawyers say he did not do that and that he is being falsely accused by those who want to force him off the air.
Officials say a decision on whether to prosecute on money-laundering charges will be made in the next few weeks.
ABCNEWS' Vic Walter and Jill Rackmill contributed to this report.
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