A well-known Maine attorney pleaded guilty Tuesday to a federal charge of money laundering for handling $177,500 in cash from a former client who is now facing prison for drug offenses.

Before any formal charges had been brought against him, Gary Prolman of Saco appeared in U.S. District Court in Portland with his attorney, Peter DeTroy, to enter his guilty plea after agreeing to bypass indictment by a grand jury.

Before the money-laundering allegations came to light, Prolman had a lucrative side business as an agent for professional hockey players. He represented promising young players like Brian Dumoulin of the Pittsburgh Penguins franchise and Matt Mangene, a prospect for the Philadelphia Flyers.

As a defense attorney, Prolman represented several men who were accused in the high-profile Kennebunk prostitution scandal in 2012 and 2013.

The investigation of his work came as no surprise to Prolman. He was aware of a federal investigation into his handling of money for David Jones, starting in September 2012.

He began negotiations with the U.S. Attorney’s Office after investigators from the Internal Revenue Service raided his law offices at 743 Portland Road in Saco on Nov. 19 of last year and seized financial documents, business records and computer equipment in connection with Jones.

Prolman spoke at Tuesday’s half-hour hearing, mainly answering yes-or-no questions posed to him by Judge George Singal.

Singal allowed Prolman to remain free without supervision pending sentencing on Aug. 13. Prolman, 52, faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of $500,000. Under the terms of his plea agreement, he will have no right to appeal if he is sentenced to 46 months or less.

Jones was targeted in a federal investigation in 2012 after authorities learned of his involvement in a large-scale marijuana smuggling operation spanning California to Maine.

Prolman began representing Jones in February 2012 as a consultant for Jones’ music and clothing businesses, Kaotik Music Group and Kaotik Clothing. Prolman later agreed to sell Jones a portion of his sports advisory business, GMP Sports Inc., and discussed making Jones a joint owner of the building where Prolman had his law office, according to court documents made public last month.

Prolman would not comment on the case against him as he left court Tuesday, but his attorney issued a written statement on Prolman’s behalf.

“Through this plea, he wishes to acknowledge clearly and unambiguously that his actions in accepting monies from David Jones were wrong and constitute money laundering under federal law since the monies invested were derived from a marijuana conspiracy,” DeTroy wrote. “While the specific circumstances that led to this guilty plea will have to await the sentencing hearing, it is important to note he has been cooperative with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and is profoundly and genuinely remorseful to his friends, family, clients and the Maine community-at-large for his current predicament, and any adverse impact he has caused anyone.”

Prolman said in a phone conversation last month that he had no idea that Jones was involved in drug smuggling and that he immediately broke off their business relations after Jones was arrested in Kansas in September 2012.

“I have absolutely no involvement (with Jones) other than that he scammed me and tried to invest in my company,” Prolman said. “He lied to me and told me he was in the music business, buying and selling music.”

IRS Special Agent Janet Pepin, who sought the search warrant for Prolman’s law offices, said in an affidavit filed with the court in November that Prolman deposited cash given to him by Jones in amounts small enough to avoid attention from federal authorities.

“Prolman admitted that when he received more than $10,000 from Jones at one time, he broke up the deposits in amounts under $10,000 to avoid the currency reporting requirements in violation of (federal law). Prolman stated he did not want the government in his life and did not want to file paperwork regarding the deposits,” Pepin said in the affidavit. “Prolman maintains that he believed Jones was involved in the music industry and that the monies he received from Jones were derived from Jones’ music endeavors.”

Jones gave Prolman three deliveries of cash, $50,000 at a time. Prolman arranged to receive $100,000 more from Jones before the deal fell through, according to court records.

Singal ordered Prolman to forfeit the $177,500 he admitted to laundering in his guilty plea.

Jones, who goes by the nickname “David Kaos,” became the target of the federal investigation after a friend who helped him with the drug business was arrested while driving about 100 pounds of marijuana from California to Maine, according to court records.

The friend, who is not identified in court records, provided information to police after his arrest on Sept. 5, 2012, telling authorities that Jones had 5,500 pounds of marijuana shipped to him from California in 2011 and 2012 using the U.S. Postal Service.

Jones, 29, pleaded guilty Dec. 10 to two counts of conspiracy to distribute marijuana, and two counts of conspiracy to launder money and aiding and abetting. He faces as much as 40 years in federal prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced June 6.

“The evidence would show that at the time Prolman engaged in these financial transactions with David Jones, Prolman was aware that David Jones had previously been convicted of a drug trafficking crime and that Prolman met David Jones through an associate of Prolman’s that Prolman knew was involved in the trafficking of drugs,” the prosecutor in both cases, Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Perry, said in a court document filed Monday.

A second Saco man, Michael Paul Jr., 44, pleaded guilty April 1 to conspiracy to launder money for Jones.

Paul admitted that in January 2012, Jones provided him with $25,000 in cash from illegal drug sales so that Paul could buy a vehicle for Jones. Paul bought the vehicle from a dealership, paying the $25,000 price with $9,000 in cash and the rest from a business checking account, according to court records.

Paul faces as much as 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000. He was released on an unsecured bond of $5,000. He is scheduled to be sentenced July 29.

Scott Dolan can be contacted at 791-6304 or at:

sdolan@pressherald.com

Twitter: @scottddolan