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I’ve Been Accused of Money Laundering. What Happens Next?

By Spodek Law Group | January 14, 2023
(Last Updated On: July 28, 2023)

Last Updated on: 28th July 2023, 07:21 pm

Money laundering is a nefarious scheme, designed to conceal the identity, source, and destination of illegally obtained funds. It transforms “dirty” money into “clean” money, making it appear as if it came from legitimate sources. But make no mistake, the crime of money laundering is far from simple. According to the 2018 National Money Laundering Risk Assessment, an estimated $300 billion in proceeds from domestic financial crime, excluding tax evasion, is generated for potential laundering.

Money launderers use various instruments to conceal the illicit origins of their funds, such as life insurance policies, securities, and real estate. They also often use small-to-medium-size businesses that are cash-intensive, such as restaurants, bars, beauty salons, laundromats, used-car dealerships, and casinos. These establishments may have been legitimate businesses before they were purchased for the sole purpose of laundering money, with the unsuspecting former owners and staff remaining unaware of the illegal activity.

As stated in a 2019 Bloomberg News article, “it’s difficult to tell the difference between legitimate business and illicit flows from criminal activity.” Criminals depend on this, merging their illicit funds with those of real companies before they head to the bank. The crime of money laundering is a complex, multi-faceted, and ever-evolving problem that requires constant vigilance and effort to combat.

Facing money laundering charges can be a daunting and overwhelming experience. As you navigate this legal terrain, it’s crucial to understand that powerful federal agencies, such as the FBI, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, and ICE, have likely been investigating your case for some time. These agencies will be looking for evidence of the “three stages” of money laundering as they build their case against you.

Placement, the first stage, involves moving illegally-gotten gains into a legitimate economy through means such as drug trafficking, human trafficking, and illegal gambling. Layering, the second stage, is the act of obscuring the origin of these funds through multiple financial transactions and methods such as “smurfing,” breaking down large amounts of cash into small deposits. Finally, integration is the process of putting the “clean” money back into the economy, such as through real estate purchases.

It’s important to note that financial institutions are also subject to strict regulations and scrutiny under laws such as the Bank Secrecy Act and Anti-Money Laundering regulations, as well as the USA Patriot Act. Even Bitcoin and blockchain transactions are under watch by the IRS.

As you navigate the legal system, it is crucial to work with a team of experienced attorneys who understand the complexities of money laundering cases and can help you mount the strongest defense possible. Don’t let the gravity of the situation weigh you down, take action and protect your rights.

What happens next, after being accused of money laundering

Have you ever heard of a money mule? They are individuals who illicitly transfer or move money on behalf of others, often for the purpose of money laundering. These criminal masterminds prey on unsuspecting individuals, recruiting them to help launder the proceeds of their illegal activities such as online scams, frauds, human trafficking, and drug trafficking.

Money mules add layers of distance between crime victims and criminals, making it incredibly difficult for law enforcement to trace money trails and bring these criminals to justice. They can move funds through various channels, such as bank accounts, cashier’s checks, virtual currency, prepaid debit cards, or money service businesses.

It’s crucial to understand that not all money mules are aware that they are supporting criminal enterprises. Some may believe they have a trusting or romantic relationship with the person asking for their help, while others may receive a commission for their services. However, regardless of their intent, serving as a money mule is illegal and punishable by law.

The consequences of being a money mule are severe. You could face prosecution and incarceration as part of a criminal money laundering conspiracy, with federal charges such as mail fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud, money laundering, and aggravated identity theft. Furthermore, serving as a money mule can damage your credit and financial standing, and you risk having your own personal information stolen and used by the criminals you are working for. You may also be held personally liable for repaying money lost by victims.

Don’t be fooled by the allure of easy money, the risks and consequences are simply not worth it. If you find yourself moving money at the direction of another person, it’s essential to question their intentions and avoid becoming a pawn in their illegal activities.

Money laundering is a sinister and elusive crime, where illicit funds are cunningly laundered through a web of financial transactions in order to conceal their illegal origin. The practice of disguising the proceeds of criminal activity as legitimate funds is not only a federal offense, but a serious threat to the integrity of our financial system. The federal government has the power to prosecute individuals for money laundering, even if they were unaware of the illegal source of the funds, under 18 U.S.C. § 1956, 1957.

The scope of “specified unlawful activity” is broad, encompassing a wide range of underlying crimes such as drug trafficking, bribery, gambling, counterfeiting, theft, embezzlement, and fraud, as well as violent crimes like murder, robbery, and arson. Prosecutors have a relatively low burden of proof when it comes to demonstrating that money constitutes proceeds from a specified unlawful activity, as defined by 18 U.S.C. § 1956(c)(9).

Unfortunately, ignorance is not always bliss when it comes to money laundering, as federal law permits the government to prosecute individuals who exhibit “willful blindness” to the source of the funds. This often-disputed issue can arise in many money laundering cases and can lead to severe penalties, including substantial prison sentences and hefty fines, as well as asset forfeiture, where the government can seize real estate, bank accounts, vehicles, and other assets belonging to the accused.

If you or someone you know has been accused of money laundering, it is crucial to take immediate action to protect your rights. The first step is to retain an experienced attorney who can provide expert legal guidance and help prepare a defense. It is also essential to keep the lines of communication open with your attorney and to refrain from discussing the case with anyone else, as the attorney-client privilege protects the privacy of communications between you and your legal counsel.

In addition, it is important to be proactive in your defense by providing your attorney with access to documents and information concerning your business activities. Having access to relevant financial records can be extremely valuable in an accounting of the allegedly illegal financial transactions. Remember, being accused of money laundering is a serious matter, and taking the necessary steps to protect yourself can make all the difference in the outcome of your case.

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