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What Is Money Laundering?

Money laundering occurs when money obtained through illegal activities, such as terrorist activities or tracking drugs or humans, is made to appear like it came from a legal source.

Money laundering typically refers to the practice of “cleaning” money that has been gained through illegal means by funneling the funds through legitimate transactions and channels in order to distance the cash from its illicit source.

Money Laundering Definition According to Law

At the federal level, the U.S. Code outlines the crime of money laundering as laundering of monetary instruments and engaging in monetary transactions in property you earned from an illegal activity.

Essentially, these sections within the Code indicate that all commerce conducted, with the intent to conceal the fact that the funds involved are the proceeds of criminal activity, constitute a serious offense.

Stages of Money Laundering

The typical money laundering scheme involves three stages: placement, layering and integration.

During the placement phase, the funds gathered from criminal proceeds are deposited into the financial system. This may involve an exchange of currency or of denomination, if dealing with physical bills to better obscure the source.

The second phase is layering. During this stage, wire transfers, the opening of new accounts, overseas deposits and other diversionary techniques are used to create confusion and further safeguard against investigation of the origins of each deposit.

The third and final stage is referred to as integration. In this phase, luxury assets may be purchased, “legitimate” financial, commercial and industrial investments may be opened, and these assets essentially take the place of the illegal funds.

What Is an Anti-Money Laundering Certificate?

Anti-money laundering certification (AML certification) is a process where individuals interested in working in the financial and securities sectors can enhance their skillset and resume.

The certification, offered by a variety of organizations (and coming in various forms), focuses on training individuals to be competent in their financial compliance protocols, being able to spot fraudulent or suspicious activity that may cross their desks or computer monitors.

Compliance with AML regulations as established by many banks, brokers and governments means that those who hold this certification may see their job prospects enhanced considerably.

Money Laundering Fines and Penalties

Money laundering is considered a very serious crime at the federal level, and several state statutes also levy severe penalties if you are convicted of the crime within their courts.

If convicted of money laundering at the federal level, you could face up to 20 years imprisonment in addition to fines of up to $500,00 or twice the value of the property involved in the offending transaction(s), whichever is higher.

Those convicted of dealing in laundered money in a transaction(s) of $10,000 or greater, rather than of laundering the cash in and of itself, face prison terms of up to 10 years.

You may also face concurrent, independent charges at the state level if accused of a crime or crimes associated with money laundering.

In some states, offenders can face three different degrees of felony charges for the crime of money laundering. If the financial transactions involved in the offense are greater than $300 but less than $20,000 in sum, third-degree felony charges result those convicted face a prison term of up to five years in length. If the laundering transactions total between $20,000 and $100,000, a conviction means up to 15 years behind bars in state prison.

Finally, for money laundering offenses in which the sum total of transactions exceeds $100,000, you could face first-degree felony charges. If you are found guilty of this crime, you could see 30 years imprisonment, depending on the state.

What To Do If Facing Money Laundering Charges

Given the severity of money laundering charges at both state and federal levels, it is highly advised that you seek the advice of an attorney if you are facing charges related to this offense.

Any evidence which assists your legal team should be preserved and securely stored in the event it is needed during trial.

What Does a Money Laundering Attorney Do?

If you have been accused of or are under investigation for money laundering, you should retain a money laundering attorney to help you protect your rights.

Consulting a legal professional can help reduce the legal consequences you may face. Some of the ways a money laundering attorney may be able to help you include:

  • Provide their knowledge of the applicable money laundering laws at both the state and federal level
  • Explain the allegations against you
  • Pursue the best possible solution for you
  • Review the police report for errors
  • Help you develop a defense plan
  • Act as an intermediary between you and the court system
  • Argue your case before the judge
  • Challenge the introduction of illegally obtained evidence
  • Raise any defenses that will mitigate your money laundering charges
  • Discuss the options available to you
  • Negotiate a settlement on your behalf to get you the best possible deal
  • Negotiate plea bargains on your behalf

The criminal justice system takes money laundering very seriously. Hiring a money laundering attorney to represent you is the greatest way to ensure that your case gets resolved in your best interest.

Do I Need a Money Laundering Lawyer?

If you are facing money laundering charges, it is advised that you consult a skilled criminal defense lawyer. A skilled legal defense team is important in assembling a stronger case than you might on your own.

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