FORT WAYNE – Days after being caught with a suitcase full of money allegedly headed to a Mexican drug cartel this spring, a local businessman was charged with a federal felony.
But the federal case against Duane DuCharme remained sealed until this month, when the 70-year-old Whitley County man pleaded guilty to the charge – misprision of a felony, which means that DuCharme had full knowledge a crime was being committed and did not notify authorities and 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 with this information.
The murky-sounding charge carries a term of imprisonment of no more than three years in prison, and a fine no more than $250,000 or twice the amount of the gross gain to the defendant, according to court documents.
DuCharme waived his right to indictment, allowing the case to proceed on the criminal information filed by the government.
DuCharme founded DuCharme, McMillen & Associates in 1973, sold the company 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 of 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, an 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 told agents a more expanded version, admitting to giving 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 DuCharme had agreed to buy stock to launder the money, according to court documents.
DuCharme’s associate still does not appear to have been charged with any crime at the federal or state level, but is also mentioned in another federal criminal case, one involving the conspiracy to distribute marijuana.
In that case, property deeded to DuCharme’s associate, which housed a company affiliated with DuCharme, was seized by federal prosecutors and forfeited after a guilty plea.
This month, another man, Eric Pieper, admitted to conspiring in a marijuana trafficking ring that moved more than 16,000 kilograms of marijuana into the Indianapolis area, as well as paying off various co-conspirators, according to court documents.
By pleading guilty, Pieper gave up a house in Texas, jewelry, guns, furs and the Indianapolis property, 9755 Westpointe Drive, deeded to DuCharme’s associate.
Tax records from 2010 list the man picked up with DuCharme as the chief operating officer of NewLife Generations, at 9755 Westpointe Drive in Indianapolis. The records also list DuCharme and his wife as the directors.