Criminal Law - Federal

Money Laundering Charges and Penalties

Money laundering involves trying to pass money from illegal sources as legitimate income. Money laundering can involve anything from small money exchanges to massive laundering networks.

Law enforcement takes money laundering seriously, and there are felony consequences for a conviction. If you are being investigated for possible money laundering, talk to an experienced federal criminal defense attorney for legal advice.

What Are Common Forms of Money Laundering?

The Money Laundering Act makes it a federal, financial crime for anyone to engage in a financial transaction knowing that the proceeds came from criminal activity. Money laundering can involve both business and person-to-person transactions.

Bodies like the U.S. Treasury Department, the United Nations, and financial services companies have created anti-money laundering policies and regulations.

Criminals use different ways to disguise the proceeds of crime from the financial system. Money laundering is often used to disguise cash transactions related to drug trafficking, terrorist organizations, human trafficking, tax evasion, and illegal gambling.

“Smurfing,” is a term used to describe breaking up large sums of cash into multiple deposits and spreading them to a variety of bank accounts to conceal their illicit activities. Criminals may also use shell companies to wire transfer money through foreign financial institutions with less strict regulations on money laundering.

“Layering” is another method of laundering, where money from a criminal enterprise is combined with a legitimate source to hide the money. For example, combining cash from drug sales with cash from a car wash business could be a way to obscure the source of the money.

Penalties for Money Laundering

If you are charged with money laundering, make sure you seek out a criminal defense attorney experienced who understands the complexity of money laundering schemes. A conviction for money laundering activities is a felony offense, and criminal penalties can include:

  • Up to 20 years in prison
  • A fine of up to $500,000 or a fine that is twice the value of the property involved in the financial transaction

There is no minimum amount required for the financial transaction. The prosecutor has to prove that you knew the funds came from illegal activity.

A related charge deals with organized crime or terrorist financing networks that launder a minimum value of $10,000. Penalties for a felony conviction can include:

  • Up to 10 years in prison
  • A fine of up to twice the amount of the proceeds stemming from a criminal offense

In this case, the prosecutor doesn’t have to prove that you knew the proceeds came from a criminal offense.

Civil Penalties for Money Laundering

In addition to criminal fines, an individual can be sued by the government for the amount of property that was part of a laundering scheme. The Department of Justice can sue financial institutions for the amount of laundered cash transactions, even if only an employee was charged and not the institution.

Money Laundering Defenses

If you are charged with money laundering, you can face significant prison time, fines, and civil sanctions. To fight the criminal charges, legal defenses can include:

  • Lack of intent: If you can prove that you did not know that money obtained in a transaction was from an illegal source, you may be able to avoid charges.
  • Duress: If someone in the money laundering scheme threatens a banker or their family unless they partake, this may be a defense.
  • Insufficient evidence: If there is not enough evidence to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt, you should not be found guilty of a crime.

If you are charged with money laundering activities, or work for a financial institution that is the subject of a money laundering scheme, don’t risk prison, fines, and civil penalties. Seek out an experienced federal criminal defense attorney that can help you understand your rights defending against anti-money laundering laws.

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