Money Laundering Charges
What Is Money Laundering?
Money laundering is the investment or transfer of money that is obtained by criminal means in an attempt to hide the original source of the money. This is described as ‘laundering’ to make the transaction appear legitimate. These types of federal charges are often included in drug, fraud, and other cases. Money laundering offenses are covered by 18 U.S.C. § 1956 and 18 U.S.C. § 1957.
18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(1) makes is a crime to engage in “promotion” or “concealment” money laundering.
Money laundering under 18 U.S.C. § 1957 applies to persons who knowingly engage or attempt to engage in monetary transactions involving property. This would be derived from criminal activity that is greater than $10,000 in value and which is derived from specific unlawful activity.
The requirement that the funds from the transaction come from “specified unlawful activity” is very broad. This statutory provision has been held to apply to offenses such as drug trafficking, wire and mail fraud, RICO violations, environmental violations and computer fraud crimes.
The term “financial transaction” is also construed broadly and generally applies to any transaction that involves money or monetary instruments, real property, or a financial institution. A transfer of cash (by hand or through wire transfer) would constitute a “financial transaction” under the statute. A check written for rent, wages, goods or services would also constitute a “financial transaction” under the statute. Any transfer of property or transfer of the right to property is also a “financial transaction” under the statute.
Defenses in Money Laundering Cases
- Source of Funds – An investigation into a money laundering case may reveal that the actual source of funds involved was not the alleged illegal activity. If an investigation shows legitimate sources of funds, the government will be required to prove that there was a co-mingling of funds to convict someone of money laundering.
- Lack of Knowledge or Intent – The defenses of lack of knowledge or lack of intent are commonly used in money laundering cases. These defenses are used where the defendant did not intend to promote illegal activity or when a transaction was not designed to conceal unlawful activity.
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