Large denomination bills scattered on a table.

The Basics of Money Laundering Cases

Federal law (located at 18 U.S.C. 1956) prohibits the act of money laundering. This law was initially created as a method to prosecute various types of criminal activity, including drug trafficking. If you or a loved one is charged with money laundering, the resulting penalties can be particularly serious. One of the best ways to respond to these charges is to understand the various ways in which these cases occur.

What is Money Laundering?

Federal law defines money laundering as obtaining money from illegitimate sources and passing it through financial channels so that it gains the appearance of being “clean.” Many people are surprised to learn that this particular offense is broken into three separate offenses – domestic laundering, international laundering, and undercover stings.

To convict a person of money laundering, the government must establish several elements, which include the following:

  • A person performed or attempted to perform a financial transaction
  • A person was aware that money or property was from an unlawful activity
  • The property came from an unlawful activity
  • The person harbored the intent to launder money

The Punishment Associated with Money Laundering

While money laundering charges in state court can result in less serious offenses, federal money laundering charges can result in a person facing a maximum of 22 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000.  Learn more about federal criminal appeals to financial offenses.

Defenses to Money Laundering Charges

Even though laundering money comes with a particularly serious charge, Some of the most common types of defenses that are raised in response to related charges include:

  • Duress. A person is found to have been under duress if he or she committed an offense while under the threat of harm if the offense was not completed. There are cases in which a financial worker is forced by someone else with the threat of harm to commit money laundering. In these situations, the person charged is often able to raise a strong defense.
  • Insufficient evidence. A criminal offense can be dismissed if there is not adequate enough evidence to convict a person. A conviction requires the prosecution to establish that a person intended illegally-obtained funds to be impossible to trace to their origins. If it can be established that there is no evidence to convict a person of money laundering, that is a strong defense.
  • Intent. Some people who are employed in the financial industry end up charged with this type of crime even though these people did not commit the crime. If a person can establish that he or she was not aware that money was obtained through illegal methods, a strong defense will likely be created because there is not a way that the individual had the intent to commit the offense of money laundering.  

Speak with an Experienced Federal Offense Lawyer

Money laundering charges can lead to some particularly serious penalties. If you or a loved one faces charges associated financial offenses, do not hesitate to speak to the legal team at the Federal Criminal Law Center.