Federal Crime of Money Laundering – 18 U.S.C. § 1956
Money laundering is a crime that the federal government has enacted in order to prevent people from attempting to use ill-gotten gains from drug proceeds or some other crime that has been committed and to launder that money through their account or another business account in order to hide it from the government. Our federal criminal defense lawyers are providing an overview below.
The money involved can be generated by any number of criminal acts, including drug dealing, corruption, accounting and other types of fraud, and tax evasion. The methods by which money may be laundered are varied and can range in sophistication from simple to complex.
There is no minimum threshold of money, nor is there the requirement that the transaction succeed in actually disguising the money. Merely passing money from one person to another, so long as there is intent to disguise the source, ownership, location or control of the money, is considered a financial transaction under the law. Money Laundering charges can get overwhelming and complicated.
Having defended these cases over the course of the last twenty-five years, what I really see going on is that the government is very similar to the mafia, in the sense that they need to get their piece of every money that moves in the United States. So, if somebody has money and they're making I,t whether it be from a legitimate or an illegitimate source, the federal government needs a piece of it.
And if people are hiding their money in various ways through legitimate accounts without reporting it to the federal government, then obviously the federal government is going to come in and attempt to prosecute those people, take that money and also find the individuals who were involved.
So, if you have a federal money laundering case in one of the federal courthouses anywhere in the United States, you obviously want to get an attorney who's been down this road before, had success, knows how to defend these cases and knows how to negotiate these cases.
A lot of time the federal government doesn't have it right and the person who's being charged with federal money laundering pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 1956 and 1957 has not really done anything illegal, is not in an illegal business and is not attempting to hide money.
All these crimes at the federal level, including money laundering, requires some sort of guilty knowledge. If the person who is involved in the criminal case at the federal level had no intent to defraud the government, had no intent to hide the money and had no intent not to pay their taxes on the money, then they really shouldn't be prosecuted for it.
What Exactly Is Money Laundering Under Federal Law?
Money laundering occurs when a person wires money in an illegal manner and then tries to cloak that money so that the federal government can't track or tax it. There are several forms of money laundering. Since laundering money prevents the federal government from taxing that money, they lose money as a result of it and therefore consider it to be a very serious crime.
The federal sentencing guidelines for money laundering are used nationwide and help guide judges in their determinations of what the sentence should be for a particular crime. However, there is case law that allows judges to impose sentences that are more or less severe than the guidelines indicate.
A base-level offense is attached in all instances of money laundering, but the ultimate sentence will depend on a number of factors, such as the amount of money involved, whether the defendant accepts responsibility for the crime, and whether they have a prior criminal record.
There is typically a statute of limitations on money laundering charges under federal law, but it doesn't apply until the federal government finds out about the illegal activity. The government is permitted to carry out investigations for a couple of years as long as they are able to justify why that's necessary.
The defense has the ability to defend themselves by locating witnesses and obtaining evidence. There are certain motions that can be filed in order to posit that the government has delayed prosecution, but the federal government is usually given a reasonable amount of time to investigate.
Money Laundering Legal Defenses
Well again, one of the biggest defenses in these cases is that you were not attempting to do anything illegal, that the money that was gained was not from an illegal source. The money is from legitimate funds, and therefore, the money should not be seized by the government, should not be forfeited and you shouldn't be criminally prosecuted.
Obviously, another defense is you had no idea that you were doing anything wrong. Sometimes the government just simply gets it wrong. They think somebody's doing something wrong as it relates to money and the person is simply not.
Just because someone's making big money, transferring big money, keeping big money in their account, doesn't necessarily mean they should be prosecuted by the federal government. What it's really going to boil down to is whether they can truly prove that you have number one – got money from an illegitimate source, and number two- whether or not you're trying to launder that money through an account and hide it from the government – hide its source as being a bad source and attempting to do something so you don't have to pay your taxes.
That's where I see a lot of these money laundering cases coming from is that people are trying to avoid paying taxes on the money that they're moving through their account and they're also trying to avoid showing the government that they're involved in something illegal.
They're trying to launder that money through their account or through some other source in order to hide it from the government. There are all sorts of different schemes. You can't even begin to imagine the various schemes that people have come up with to try to make money – to try to hide money from the government, and ultimately, if the government gets you for federal money laundering you've got a lot of trouble and you need to sit down with a criminal defense attorney who's been down this road before and had success.
What I do when I have a federal money laundering case, I get you in the office, we sit down, we have a frank discussion about whether you're innocent or guilty. If the government has the goods on you, then obviously we're going to take one course of action where we're going to negotiate with them.
We're going to try to get the money paid back so the government is made whole, and if we can get the money paid back, then we're obviously in a much stronger position. If, on the other hand, they don't have the goods on you, they can't prove the case on you and you didn't do anything wrong, then obviously you shouldn't have to swallow a federal conviction.
So, really what we need to know, what course we need to set out our road map from the beginning. Once we have that, then obviously I tell you what you can do to help yourself in a federal money laundering case, what I'm going to do to help you. We're both going to be moving in the same direction with the same goal of protecting your rights, your freedom, your record, your reputation and obviously everything that you hold dear.
If you or someone you know is facing money laundering charges, contact us and set up a free consultation with our federal criminal defense attorneys.