The term money laundering is famous in movies involving criminal mysteries and the mob. It seems self-explanatory, but most people fail to understand the full extent of money laundering. The dictionary defines money laundering as “the concealment of the origins of illegally obtained money, typically by means of transfers involving foreign banks or legitimate businesses.” In layman’s terms, money laundering is obtaining money illegally and using alternative channels to make the money appear legal in some aspect.
This is a white-collar crime, and it’s prevalent in many areas of the United States. Many business owners use a legitimate business front to launder their money. An example of money laundering might be a local pizza company selling pizza to their customers while selling drugs to another set of customers in the back. The pizza company owner runs the profits from drug sales through the pizza business to make them look legitimate. This happens by falsifying pizza sales to make it look like more pizza was sold to account for the income taken in on any given day. It can be considered a state or a federal crime.
The law varies by state, but ever state considers money laundering an illegal act. When money laundering occurs, it usually involves three separate steps.
– A person has money he or she obtained illegally
– The person then takes the money and conceals where it came from to look legal
– Now the person takes the money from the clean source and uses it
Illegally obtaining funds can be done by various means.
2. Profit of the sales of stolen items
6. Drug sales
7. Tax fraud
8. Medicare fraud
9. Mortgage fraud
Most cases of money laundering include the use of a foreign bank account. These accounts are used commonly because the rules in other countries are far less strict than they are in the United States. Not all accounts are taxable in other countries, many don’t even require an actual name for the account holder. Instead, they favor a long and complex account number.
Penalties for Money Laundering
Every case is different, but federal law allows anyone accused of money laundering to be charged separately for each transaction when the case is tried in a federal court. One count of money laundering is punishable by up to $500,000 in fines or an amount equal to double the amount of the transaction. The court fines all guilty defendants with the option that’s more expensive. Every count of money laundering a person is charged with has the same penalty. If, for example, a person is charged with 10 counts of money laundering, he or she could be charged with fines of at least $5 million. Every defendant could face up to 20 years in prison for each transaction.
If the court decides to add civil penalties to each count of money laundering, another $10,000 for each transaction is charged. Before anyone is charged with money laundering, the court is responsible for proving the defendant knew the money was illegal when it was obtained, and willingly and knowingly funneled it through exceptional channels to make it appear legal. There are always exceptions to each case, and it’s important you hire a criminal attorney to help your case.
For example, a pizza restaurant involved in drug sales and money laundering might hire employees to deliver pizza. If the delivery person has no idea there are drugs hidden in a pizza box he is delivering to a client, or that the funds he’s taking from the client includes drug money, he’s innocent of money laundering. The court has to prove the pizza delivery guy knew he was taking illegal money and funneling it for his employer. In most instances, innocent employees have no idea what’s going on.
A criminal defense attorney is your best chance at a reduced sentence or proving your innocence in a money laundering case. Experience and an in-depth knowledge of the law is required to help anyone seek the most adequate defense when accused of money laundering on a civil or federal level when charges are filed.