Money laundering is a federal white-collar crime that can result in significant penalties, including decades in prison. The Money Laundering Control Act of 1986 establishes details of this crime and consequences that defendants may face for violating the law. Under federal law, you could face up to 20 years in prison and hefty fines.
What Is Money Laundering?
Money laundering occurs when an individual disguises the source, amount, or destination of money obtained by illegal means. This often happens through bank transfers and interactions with legitimate businesses. Funds are usually obtained through embezzlement, fraud, drug trafficking, or other unlawful activities.
Money laundering is often associated with other crimes, such as racketeering, tax evasion, credit card fraud, cryptocurrency crimes, and white-collar crimes that may be added or lesser included charges.
Domestic Money Laundering
Domestic money laundering is often associated with false organizational operations. An individual may form a business and transfer money between domestic bank accounts. The more money is transferred, the harder it is to track. To avoid money laundering charges, it’s important to carefully track every penny in personal and business accounts.
International Money Laundering
Many money laundering activities take place between domestic and international bank accounts. International bank accounts are more difficult to track. This makes it easier for an individual to hide the source, amount, and destination of money. International money laundering may result in criminal charges in more than one country.
Undercover “Sting” Laundering Operations
If the government suspects money laundering is occurring, they may set up an undercover “sting” operation. A sting operation creates a situation where an individual may take part in money laundering where they would not otherwise. Sting operations are often considered “entrapment,” where the police persuade an individual into illegal activity.
Federal Sentencing for Money Laundering
There is no mandatory minimum sentence for federal money laundering charges. However, the penalties can be severe. The government views money laundering very harshly.
A money laundering conviction could result in up to 20 years in federal prison. Additionally, you will likely face a fine of up to $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved in the laundering, whichever is greater.
Money laundering convictions are often combined with other charges, such as racketeering. By combining the offenses, you may face even stricter penalties.
Although the maximum penalty for money laundering is significant, it is unlikely that a person will receive the harshest consequences unless aggravating factors are present. If you are a first-time offender, your criminal defense lawyer can present mitigating factors to lessen your sentence.
Some mitigating factors that may make your sentence less harsh include:
- This is your first criminal offense
- You can quickly pay all fines and restitution
- You opt for alternative punishments like community service
- You weren’t aware of the circumstances surrounding the crime
- You didn’t know the source of the money
- Extent you worked with or assisted law enforcement
- Lack of knowledge of specific facts
- Whether you take a plea bargain or go to trial
Aggravating factors can also make your sentence worse, up to the maximum length of time in prison. Those aggravating factors include:
- Extent to which you were involved in the crime
- Knowledge of what took place
- Involvement of other individuals in the crime
- Length of time the activities occurred
Defending Against Money Laundering Charges
Your money laundering defense attorney can attack the allegations against you in many ways. Some common defenses and strategies used include:
- There was no underlying criminal conduct
- You did not have the requisite intent to commit the crime
- You did not know that the money was from an illegal source
- There was an illegal search and seizure
- You were not read Miranda rights
- You were not provided with legal counsel when requested
Any illegally obtained evidence, including your own statements, may be excluded from the case. If the judge grants a motion to exclude evidence, the prosecution may not have enough information to sustain charges against you, and your case may be dismissed.
A Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help
Money laundering charges result in severe penalties that seriously affect your private and professional life. You need to work with a white-collar crime lawyer who can protect your legal rights and reputation.