Money laundering laws are complex and serious, with consequences that could ruin your life. Your first step if facing money laundering charges is to speak with a criminal defense attorney experienced in money laundering litigation. The sooner you speak with an attorney, the sooner you can take steps in determining the extent of your potential criminal liability.
The following article offers a brief explanation of money laundering, common money laundering schemes, and defenses to the charge of money laundering.
What Is Money Laundering?
Money laundering is the act of transferring money obtained from criminal activity into seemingly legitimate channels to make it appear that the money came from a lawful source. Money laundering is often a practice of organized crime, and money laundering charges can include conspiracy, racketeering, and drug crimes.
The term money laundering comes from the process of taking ill-gotten, “dirty money,” and “cleaning” it for use in the legal economy. Money laundering is both a state and federal crime. Money laundering charges are often filed in conjunction with the following charges:
- Bank fraud;
- Credit card fraud;
- Drug offenses;
- ID theft;
- Mortgage fraud;
- Securities fraud; and
- Tax evasion.
Money laundering laws are meant to punish anyone who engages in any type of financial transaction, if that individual knows, or should know, that the proceeds arise from any illegal activity.
Common Federal Money Laundering Schemes
There are some common money laundering schemes throughout the United States that the federal government is actively monitoring. These include the following:
- Wire fraud;
- Real estate money laundering;
- Terrorist financing;
- Online and electronic money laundering; and
- Drug money laundering.
Penalties And Sentencing For Money Laundering
Under the Money Laundering Control Act of 1986, there is no minimum threshold of funds for charges to be placed upon an individual, organization, or business entity. In other words, it does not matter if the amount of money laundered was $1 or $1,000,000. The individual is still at the mercy of the prosecutor.
Money laundering carries large fines and jail time, depending on the specifics of the crime. Fines can go as high as $500,000, and imprisonment can last as long as twenty years per count. Most money laundering cases consist of multiple counts.
Sentencing guidelines are available for money laundering. However, the sentences are individualized due to the specific type of violation and the amount of money involved in the illegal transaction. Generally, the maximum sentence for federal money laundering includes a sentence of up to twenty years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000.
In Texas, the maximum sentence for money laundering includes up to ninety-nine years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Under both federal law and Texas law, the statute of limitations, or timeframe in which an individual is able to be prosecuted for a crime, for money laundering is five years.
Money Laundering Defenses
There are defenses to the charge of money laundering. The first possible defense is there was no expectation of receiving the money back. The act of spending money is not money laundering. The act of receiving proceeds from illegal activity is not necessarily money laundering.
It is the investment of illegal proceeds into a legal business without that business having any money of its own that is money laundering. The following are defenses to money laundering:
- Lack of intent to commit the crime of money laundering. The was no knowledge the money was illegal;
- Duress. A person believes he or she, or a loved one, will be in danger if they decline to participate in a crime; and
- Not enough evidence to prosecute. The prosecutor must trace the illegal funds to their source, and prove the laundered money came from illegal activity.
How An Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help
If you or someone you know is charged with money laundering, an experienced criminal defense attorney, like those at Vinas & Graham, can help. An attorney familiar with money-laundering will actively pursue any possible witnesses needed to help prove your case, along with learning any evidence the federal government has to prove their case. Then will work with you to refute that evidence.
Call the attorneys at Vinas & Graham today to schedule a consultation. The sooner you contact us, the sooner we can begin to identify any witnesses, electronic records, and any physical, financial records needed to prove your case. Call or visit us on Facebook.