Federal authorities spare no expense in investigating potential money laundering. If you are found guilty, you could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison, along with hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. However, it is possible to fight and beat a money laundering charge with a Los Angeles money laundering lawyer.
At the Simmrin Law Group, our federal crimes team has the experience to fight even the toughest charges and the most aggressive prosecutors. Our mission is simple: we want to give you a strong defense and the best possible chance of avoiding prison time and other penalties. Fill out the form to the right or give us a call to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation today.
What Is Money Laundering?
Money laundering is the crime of taking money obtained illegally and knowingly camouflaging it or making it appear legitimate. There are three steps to most money laundering schemes:
Placement is the first step in any money laundering setup. It means taking money from criminal activity and “placing” it in the financial system. For example, you might take money gained from a mail fraud scheme and place it in a bank account.
In layering, the money that was “placed” is used in financial transactions designed to hide the origin of the cash. Layering can be as simple as converting money into different currencies or much more complex, such as a set of investments or transfers.
With integration, the money gets passed on to one or more people. The idea is that these people can now put the money in their own bank accounts or spend it without it being traced to criminal activity.
It is possible to violate money laundering laws even if the illegally-gotten cash never passes through a bank or business. Just passing cash on to other people can qualify as long as the goal was to conceal the source of the money.
Likewise, the crime of money laundering does not require a minimum amount of money, and the scheme does not have to have been successful. Any amount of attempted laundering counts. Note that federal money laundering laws only apply if the money laundering scheme took place across state or international lines or somehow involved “interstate commerce.”
For a free legal consultation with a money laundering lawyer serving Los Angeles, call (310) 928-9347
What Counts as “Dirty” Money?
To be convicted of federal money laundering, the money must have been obtained from certain unlawful activities. Federal law has a long list of these illegal activities, which include:
- Violent crimes, like federal robbery, murder, or kidnapping
- Theft crimes, including extortion and embezzlement
- Drug offenses
- Human trafficking
- Mail fraud, wire fraud, and other fraud crimes
- Child pornography
- Trade and export violations
It surprises many people to learn that you can be charged with federal money laundering if you fail to report a transaction greater than $10,000 to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This is one of the main ways that otherwise innocent people find themselves facing federal criminal charges.
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What Are Some Common Ways that Money Laundering Is Carried Out?
There are many types of money laundering schemes, and they are often not as simple as just moving money in and out of bank accounts. The complexity of these schemes can make them hard to prove. Some popular money laundering methods include:
- Buying real estate with illegally gotten money, then selling it
- Paying employees “under the table” with laundered money
- Dumping illegal cash into a business, then reporting it as legitimate income
- Hiding cash flow with invoices that are undervalued, overvalued, or double-billed
- Using trusts and shell companies
What Defenses Can I Use Against a Money Laundering Charge?
Since there are many ways you might be accused of laundering money, there are many potential defenses that your lawyer might use. It all depends on the facts surrounding your situation and the charges against you. But the following three defenses are probably the ones used most often:
- Lack of intent
- No laundering occurred
- Rights violations
Lack of Intent
To be guilty of money laundering, you must have “knowingly” hidden the source of illegal money. The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you had this criminal intent. However, if you did not know the money was obtained illegally, you did not intend to commit a crime, and you should not be convicted.
Remember that the prosecution is always saddled with the burden of proof. As long as the prosecution can not show that you almost certainly knew what you were doing, you should be able to win your case with this defense.
No Laundering Occurred
Money laundering requires hiding the source of money. Simply having money that was obtained illegally is not money laundering. If you obtained proceeds from a crime but never did anything with the money, you may be able to avoid a money laundering conviction.
However, you may still face charges for the underlying crime through which the money was obtained if there is enough evidence to tie you to the deed.
A substantial amount of evidence is usually needed to prove a money laundering charge. Often that evidence comes from undercover police operations and searches.
There are strict constitutional protections surrounding these activities. If the police conducted an illegal search or otherwise violated your rights, your lawyer may be able to get crucial evidence thrown out. Doing this could lead to an acquittal.
Money laundering charges can be complicated. A lawyer can investigate the facts surrounding the charges against you and form a strategy for attacking the prosecution’s evidence and presenting a strong case in court.
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What Are the Penalties for Money Laundering?
Penalties for a money laundering conviction depend on several factors. The main influences on sentencing are how the crime is charged.
Money laundering can be charged on the state level as a misdemeanor or a felony, or on the federal level as a felony. The potential penalties vary greatly between these different charges.
A California State Misdemeanor
The choice to prosecute money laundering as a misdemeanor or a felony on the state level is up to the discretion of the prosecutor. This law is governed by California Penal Code §186.10. Generally, the prosecutor will look at the specifics of your case as well as your criminal history when choosing whether to pursue misdemeanor or felony charges.
While the penalties for a misdemeanor charge are quite mild compared to the two felony options, they are still significant. A misdemeanor conviction can result in:
- Up to one year in jail
- A fine of up to $1,000
- Summary probation
A California State Felony
The consequences for a felony charge increase dramatically. If the prosecutor chooses to pursue this charge and is able to get a conviction, you could be facing:
- Up to four years in prison
- A fine of up to $250,000 or twice the amount of money laundered (whichever is greater)
- Felony probation
A Federal Felony
The amount of prison time can increase greatly with a federal felony. On the federal level, money laundering is prosecuted under 18 U.S.C. §1956. The potential penalties include:
- Up to 20 years in federal prison
- A fine of up to $500,000, or twice the value of the money laundered (whichever is greater)
- Felony probation
Fines for these offenses can increase if the defendant is found to have laundered money on multiple occasions. Likewise, jail or prison time can increase if the amount laundered was greater than $50,000.
A single money laundering charge can have consequences for life. You need to talk to a Los Angeles federal crimes lawyer if you’re facing this charge.
Talk to a Los Angeles Money Laundering Lawyer for Free
At the Simmrin Law Group, we fight for the accused. We will listen to you, take your side, and fight to prove you innocent. Our team of money laundering lawyers in Los Angeles has the expertise needed to provide the best possible defense for our clients.
Give us a call or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free, no-obligation case evaluation today. A member of our team will review your case and advise you of all your legal options and then develop a strategy for your defense.