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—plus hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. But it is possible to fight and beat a money laundering charge. You need to talk to 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: to give you a strong defense and the best possible chance of avoiding prison time and other penalties. Let us give you a free consultation. Fill out the form to the right or call us at 310-997-4688 and get your free consultation today.
What is money laundering?
Money laundering is the crime of taking money that was obtained illegally and knowingly camouflaging it or making it appear legitimate. There are three steps to most money laundering schemes: placement, layering and integration.
- Placement. 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.
- Layering. In layering, the money that was “placed” is used in financial transactions that are designed to hide the origin of the money. This could be as simple as converting money into different currencies, or much more complex such as a set of investments or transfers.
- Integration. The money is 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 the 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 cash.
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.”
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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 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 might be 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 common money laundering methods include:
- Buying real estate with illegally-gotten money, and then selling it
- Paying employees “under the table” with laundered money
- Dumping illegal cash into a business that then reporting it as legitimate income
- Hiding cash flow with invoices that are undervalued, overvalued or double billed
- Using trusts and shell companies
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What defenses can I use against money laundering?
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. 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. But if you did not know the money was obtained illegally, you did not intend to commit a crime and you should not be convicted.
- No laundering occurred. Money laundering requires hiding the source of money—just having money that was obtained illegally is not money laundering. If you obtained proceeds from a crime but never did anything with it, you may be able to avoid a money laundering conviction, though you could still be convicted of the underlying crime if there is evidence to support it.
- Rights violations. A substantial amount of evidence is usually needed to prove a money laundering charge, and often that evidence comes from undercover police operations, and searches. There are strict constitutional protections surrounding these activities, and if the police conducted an illegal search or otherwise violated your rights, your lawyer may be able to get crucial evidence thrown out, leading to an acquittal.
Money laundering charges can be complicated, and 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 include:
- Up to 20 years in federal prison
- Fines of $500,000, ortwice the value of the money involved in the money laundering scheme, whichever is greater
A single money laundering charge can have consequences for life. You need to talk to a lawyer.
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At the Simmrin Law Group, we fight for the accused. We will listen to you, take your side and fight to prove you innocent—period. Let us give you a FREE consultation. Fill out the form to the right or call us at 310-997-4688 and get your free consultation today.