Fraud is one of the most aggressively prosecuted federal offenses in the United States, and being arrested for a federal fraud crime like money laundering can set in motion a chain of events that can adversely affect the rest of your life, even if you are never formally charged with the crime or convicted of any wrongdoing.
There are many different types of fraud that can lead to federal charges being filed, such as money laundering, a white-collar crime carrying significant criminal penalties, possibly including considerable fines, restitution, asset forfeiture, and a federal prison sentence.
If you are facing federal charges for money laundering, do not wait to protect your legal rights.
Contact our federal money laundering attorneys at Seyb Law Group as soon as possible to discuss your legal options.
AFFORDABLE, AGGRESSIVE MONEY LAUNDERING ATTORNEY
Money laundering is a serious criminal offense and the consequences associated with a federal money laundering conviction can be devastating for you and your family, possibly resulting in job loss, ruined relationships, and a permanently damaged reputation.
Any time you are facing a financial crime like money laundering, you need immediate assistance from a criminal defense attorney who has extensive experience in federal court.
Federal crimes differ from state crimes in many ways, including the severity of the punishment resulting from a conviction and the tenacity with which they are investigated and prosecuted by the government.
Only with an experienced federal criminal defense attorney on your side can you get the best possible outcome in your money laundering case.
At Seyb Law Group, our defense attorneys have more than 60 years of combined criminal defense experience and we have earned a reputation for aggressively and passionately protecting the rights of the criminally accused.
Consult our lawyers today for a free evaluation of your money laundering case.
FEDERAL MONEY LAUNDERING
According to the Internal Revenue Service, financial crimes represent the majority of criminal activity in the United States, and one of the most common financially motivated crimes is money laundering.
Generally speaking, “money laundering” is a term used to describe the act of “cleaning” money obtained from illegal activities, so the so-called “dirty” money appears to be money obtained from a legitimate source (“clean” money) and cannot be traced back to the illegal activity.
Alternatively, “money structuring” involves breaking up large financial transactions into smaller transactions to get around federal reporting requirements and tax obligations.
In both cases, the purpose is to circumvent federal laws that allow the government to track income and monetary transactions.
There are several different types of money laundering crimes that can result in federal charges being filed, including:
- Money laundering through the purchase of real estate – Attempting to launder money by purchasing real estate through an LLC with illegal funds, and then turning around and immediately selling the real estate. This makes it appear as though the resulting funds have come from a legitimate source, rather than illegal activities, and makes it more difficult for law enforcement to trace the money back to the illegal activity.
- Electronic money laundering – Attempting to launder money using online payment options like PayPal, Square and Venmo. By moving money around online, outside of the traditional banking system, individuals attempting to launder money can more easily conceal the original source of the income and make it more difficult for the money to be connected back to their illegal activity.
- Money structuring – Federal law requires transactions of $10,000 or more to be reported by the financial institution handling the transaction. Structuring occurs when a person attempts to avoid this reporting requirement by breaking a large financial transaction down into several smaller transactions. In terms of fraud, structuring typically occurs when a person is attempting to launder money or avoid paying taxes. However, money structuring charges can still be filed even if the money comes from a legitimate source and the appropriate taxes are paid. Simply attempting to circumvent financial reporting requirements using structuring is enough to violate federal law.
Because money laundering involves “cleaning” money derived from illegal activities, the financial crime is closely related to other criminal offenses, like:
- Drug trafficking,
- Healthcare fraud,
- Importing or exporting controlled substances,
- Wire fraud,
- Racketeering, and
- Tax fraud or tax evasion.
In fact, it is rare that a person is charged with money laundering without being charged with other financially-motivated crimes.
For this reason, a money laundering conviction typically carries more severe criminal penalties than you might expect.
Federal Money Laundering 18 U.S.C. § 1956 and 18 U.S.C. § 1957
The federal law that makes money laundering a criminal offense is the Money Laundering Control Act of 1986, which consists of two sections: 18 U.S.C. § 1956 and 18 U.S.C. § 1957.
Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 1956, it is against federal law for any person to knowingly engage in a financial transaction involving, or to knowingly transport, money derived from unlawful activity (i.e. drug trafficking, embezzlement or healthcare fraud), while knowing that the transaction or transportation is intended to conceal the nature, source, location or control of the “criminally derived” money.
Under this law, if you engage in a financial transaction and you believe the funds in question could be derived from unlawful activity, you could be charged with federal money laundering, even if you were not directly involved in the criminal activity in question.
The other federal money laundering law is 18 U.S.C. § 1957, under which it is unlawful for any person to knowingly engage or attempt to engage in a monetary transaction involving “criminally derived” money or property valued at more than $10,000, whether or not they are aware that the money was derived from unlawful activity.
PENALTIES FOR A FEDERAL MONEY LAUNDERING CONVICTION
Money laundering and the associated criminal activity is a continuing concern for the federal government, and pursuant to the policies set forth by the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the United States imposes tough penalties for money laundering and other white-collar crimes.
If you are charged with and convicted of a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956, for instance, you could face a potential punishment of up to 20 years in federal prison for each count and/or up to $500,000 in fines, or double the value of the property involved in the transaction, whichever amount is greater.
A violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1957, however, is a less serious crime, and a conviction carries a potential punishment of up to 10 years in federal prison.
Even if you simply enter into an agreement to launder money, you could find yourself facing conspiracy to commit money laundering charges, whether or not you actually handled any money or participated in the act of money laundering in any direct way.
Other criminal offenses, like mail fraud and wire fraud, are often charged in connection with money laundering, in cases where the defendant used a mail carrier service or electronic communications in committing the money laundering scheme, or instead of money laundering, if the prosecution didn’t have enough evidence to pursue a money laundering charge.
You could also be convicted of other crimes, like embezzlement, racketeering or healthcare fraud in combination with money laundering, in which case, the punishment associated with a conviction would be substantially more severe.
If you are facing allegations for multiple federal offenses, and you are convicted of these crimes, you could end up paying millions of dollars in fines and spending years, if not decades, in federal prison.
You could even end up serving a de facto life sentence in federal prison, a non-life sentence that is so long, it is likely the individual will either die or live out a significant majority of his or her life before being released.
FEDERAL MONEY LAUNDERING DEFENSE
Being investigated or arrested for money laundering is not an insignificant incident, but it is not the end of the world either.
Whatever criminal charges you are facing, it is important to remember that you still have rights and that you are presumed innocent by the court until proven guilty.
As in all criminal cases, the federal prosecutor in a money laundering case bears the burden of proof, which means, in order to convict you of money laundering in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956, the prosecutor will have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the following elements of the crime:
- You knowingly carried out or attempted to carry out a financial transaction;
- You knew the money or property involved in the transaction was derived from unlawful activity;
- The money or property was actually derived from unlawful activity; and
- You engaged in the financial transaction with the intention of concealing the nature, source, location, or control of the money or property.
The main difference between 18 U.S.C. § 1956 and 18 U.S.C. § 1957 is that under 18 U.S.C. § 1957, the government is not required to prove that the defendant knew that the money was derived from unlawful activity to get a conviction.
For this reason, the prosecution may pursue charges under this section of the statute if they are unable to prove that element of the crime under the stricter requirements of 18 U.S.C. § 1956.
Best Defense Strategies in Federal Money Laundering Cases
Most states have their own laws regarding white-collar crimes, but money laundering of any kind is a federal offense, and allegations of money laundering are therefore prosecuted in federal court.
Defending federal crimes is very different from defending state crimes, and defendants facing federal charges for money laundering should seek immediate assistance from a criminal defense attorney specializing in federal crimes.
There are a number of valid defenses your attorney can present on your behalf to fight money laundering charges under 18 U.S.C. § 1956, including the following:
- The money was not derived from any unlawful activity
- You did not know that the money was derived from an unlawful activity
- You did not intend to conceal the source of the money
- You were coerced or forced to launder money against your will
- The evidence against you was obtained during an illegal search
HOW HIRING A MONEY LAUNDERING DEFENSE ATTORNEY CAN HELP
Federal money laundering laws can be complicated and confusing, and without an attorney in your corner who has extensive experience handling federal criminal cases, you could find yourself facing a conviction for money laundering and other related crimes carrying a potential sentence of 10 or more years in federal prison.
If you believe you are under investigation for money laundering, contact our law firm as soon as possible. We may be able to intervene and prevent you from ever being arrested or formally charged.
If you have already been arrested or charged with money laundering, it’s not too late to get legal help.
Our firm has a proven track record of success in federal court and we may be able to negotiate with the prosecution to get the money laundering charges reduced to a lesser offense with less severe penalties, or possibly even get the case dismissed altogether.
At Seyb Law Group, we understand that the ramifications of a money laundering conviction can be far-reaching and long-lasting, and we will do everything in our power to protect your rights and minimize the consequences of the money laundering allegations against you.
CONTACT OUR MONEY LAUNDERING DEFENSE ATTORNEYS TODAY
The federal government can pursue money laundering charges against any person who spends, transfers or invests the money he or she knows came from criminal activity, or against any person who allows “dirty” money from another person’s criminal activity to pass through their own accounts or business activities, in an attempt to conceal the source of the money and make an illegal enterprise appear legitimate.
The sooner you hire a skilled federal criminal defense attorney, the sooner you can begin protecting your rights and building a winning defense.
Consult our reputable defense attorneys at Seyb Law Group today to schedule your free initial consultation.