Federal Crime of the Week – Money Laundering

Money laundering is the act of hiding or disguising the source or destination of illegally-obtained funds so that they are difficult to trace.  Money is laundered so that the profits of theft, drug sales, or other illegal activity will appear to come from a legitimate source.   While money laundering is often thought of as more related to drug crimes, frequently money laudering is used in business related schemes and white collar crime.  For example, money laundering charges may be associated with illegal funds obtained through securities fraud, mortgage fraud, bribery, business fraud, and other financial crimes.


What are the elements of money laudering?

The government must prove the following elements under 18 U.S.C. § 1956 beyond a reasonable doubt in order to convict you of money laundering:

  1. You conducted a financial transaction (transferring money, etc.) with proceeds from an illegal activity;
  2. You knew that the proceeds were from illegal activity; and you did it to:
  3. continue the illegal activity, or to:
  4. hide it from the IRS, or to:
  5. “conceal or disguise the nature, the location, the source, the ownership, or the control of the proceeds of specified unlawful activity”; or finally,
  6. to avoid a transaction reporting requirement under State or Federal law.



What are the penalties for money laudering?

Money laundering is almost always charged as a federal crime, because teh money has crossed state lines.  A conviction for money laudering under 18 U.S.C. § 1956 may result in up to 20 years imprisonment, as well as a fine of not more than $500,000, or twice the value of the property involved in the transaction, whichever is greater.  Specific penalties that may be imposed may vary depending on your particular case.

Money laundering is a very sophisticated criminal charge, and your lawyer needs to be experienced in federal criminal defense, as well as the specific substantive law of financial crime.   Simply receiving money from a bad source can expose you to serious criminal charges.  The good news, however, is there are specific defenses that can be used to defend against these charges if you are unwittingly caught up in someone else’s scheme.  This firm has a nationwide federal criminal defense practice.  Please call us at 601-991-1099 when you need our assistance.