Los Angeles Federal Money Laundering Defense Lawyer
What is Money Laundering?
Under federal law, it is illegal to use or transfer money obtained through criminal activity. Individuals or businesses that earn money illegally, such as drug operations or child pornography rings, may attempt to conceal the source of their money by funneling it through a bank or another legitimate business. This intentional concealment of the source of illegally-obtained money is also a federal crime, known as “money laundering.”
There are typically three steps in the money laundering process:
- Placement: Getting the money into a financial institution.
- Layering: Using a series of complex financial transactions to create a confusing paper trail.
- Integration (or “cleaning”): Introducing the money back into circulation through legitimate business transactions.
However, money laundering does not need to be complex to be against the law. Giving illegally-obtained cash to another individual is also a federal crime if the gift was intended to conceal the source of your money.
Federal money laundering charges are serious. If you are charged with money laundering, you could also be charged with other federal crimes or face heightened penalties, depending on the circumstances of your case. An experienced Los Angeles federal money laundering defense lawyer can help you determine the best path forward to avoid potentially devastating consequences.
What Are the Penalties for Federal Money Laundering?
As a federal felony offense, money laundering carries harsh penalties, even for a first offense. Sentences for money laundering may include up to 20 years in a federal prison, as well as fines up to $500,000 or twice the total value of the money laundered (whichever is greater). Your assets could also be seized or frozen, which means that you or your family may not be able to access your bank accounts, even if your money was legally earned.
If you are charged with money laundering, the federal government could also decide to charge you with other federal crimes, such as conspiracy, wire fraud, mail fraud or bank fraud. Criminal organizations that engage in money laundering are also frequently charged with racketeering. If you are convicted of additional federal offenses, you would be subject to additional severe penalties, including consecutive prison sentences.
Defenses to Federal Money Laundering Charges
To convict you for money laundering, the federal government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:
- You engaged in a financial transaction;
- The transaction involved the proceeds of unlawful activities; AND
- You made the transaction with the specific intent to conceal the source of the funds.
If the government cannot prove each of these elements, you cannot be found guilty of money laundering.
A skilled defense attorney will be able to introduce doubt and take advantage of flaws in the prosecution’s case. For example, your attorney might argue that:
- You did not intend to conceal the source of your funds. Even if you deposited funds with a bank, that is not enough to show that you intended to conceal where those funds came from.
- The funds at issue were not obtained illegally. The federal money laundering statute only applies to funds earned through certain unlawful activities that are specified in the law. Your attorney may be able to show that your funds were not earned through any of those specified unlawful activities.
- The evidence against you was illegally obtained and should be thrown out. Federal money laundering investigations often involve undercover operations by federal agents. It is not uncommon in these circumstances for the authorities to conduct an illegal search.
The Law Offices of Adrian M. Baca Can Defend You Against Federal Money Laundering Charges
It can be very difficult for the federal government to identify and prove money laundering. The Law Offices of Adrian M. Baca has over 30 years of experience defending clients against these serious federal charges and knows how to find and exploit holes in the federal government’s case. If you believe you are the subject of a money-laundering investigation, do not speak to federal agents before speaking with an experienced Los Angeles federal money laundering defense lawyer. Contact us by phone or by filling out our contact form for a free consultation to discuss your options.