Money laundering

US Money Laundering –  Monte Silver, Attorney

Money laundering can be the subject of a US federal investigation, or it can be part of a much larger matter.  We represent clients around the world who face US money laundering charges.
If convicted of federal money laundering charges, individuals can face up to 20 years in prison, in addition to the greater of $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved. 

If you are the subject of a federal money laundering charge, you must take this seriously and retain expert legal experts as soon as possible.

What is Money Laundering?

The crime of money laundering is defined in two US federal laws: 

  1. 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a) 
    Whoever, knowing that the property involved in a financial transaction represents the proceeds of some form of unlawful activity, conducts or attempts to conduct such a financial transaction which in fact involves the proceeds of specified unlawful activity . . . with the intent to promote the carrying on of specified unlawful activity[;] with intent to engage in tax fraud, or knowing that the transaction is designed in whole or in part to conceal or disguise the nature, the location, the source, the ownership, or the control of the proceeds of specified unlawful activity or avoid a transaction reporting requirement under State or Federal law, shall be sentenced to a fine of not more than $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved in the transaction, whichever is greater, or imprisonment for not more than twenty years, or both.
  2. 18 U.S.C. § 1957(a) 
    Whoever knowingly engages or attempts to engage in a monetary transaction in criminally derived property of a value greater than $10,000 which is derived from specified unlawful activity, shall be fined or imprisoned for not more than ten years or both. 

The term “specified unlawful activity” is defined very broadly and includes activities such as bank or securities fraud, bribery of government officials, drug crimes, smuggling, theft and other types of crime. 

As opposed to many other crimes where “knowledge” of the criminal act is a key element, it is not so in money laundering cases.  In such cases, it is sufficient that the person culpability without proof that the suspect you knew that the transaction involved the proceeds of specified unlawful activity. 

Money laundering in the Cannabis Industry

Although many states have legalized marijuana, the substance is still listed as a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law. This puts many businesses in the cannabis industry at risk of prosecution for money laundering. 

Here are Cannabis-related transactions that can give raise to federal money charges:

The purchase of cannabis growing or cultivation supplies;
Cannabis store acquisitions, financing, construction, and equipment.  

The IRS and FBI are focusing on cross-border transactions related to cannabis business activities. Thus, those involved in such activities need to be especially careful

Cryptocurrency

Federal agencies are becoming increasingly focused on individuals and businesses that engage in transactions involving cryptocurrencies. Recent high-profile cases have shown that such transactions are not as “anonymous” as many people believe.  

The federal government is investigating the following kind of cryptocurrency activity: 

  • Bitcoin dealers and cash exchange businesses.
  • Non-Americans engaging in cryptocurrency transactions with Americans

 Be careful.  Crypto exchanges are useful sources of information for federal agencies.  In addition, to avoid liability, banks are over-reporting cryptocurrency-related transactions to the federal government.  As a result, many innocent individuals and businesses face money laundering investigations.  As a result, defending against money laundering related to cryptocurrency requires a special approach. When you are at risk for federal prison time and hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars in fines, nothing can be assumed.

Defending against money laundering charges

  • Lack of knowledge – If you did not have knowledge of the criminal act, you are not guilty of the crime.
  • Lack of Intent –money laundering charges require some degree of intent. 
  • Lawfully–Derived Property – Without unlawfully-derived property, there can be no money laundering.
  • Insufficient proof – the government has the burden of proof.  Does the government have enough evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt? 
     

Bottom line, you must be very careful to do anything that could get you deeper into trouble.  We can analyze your situation and help you determine the best way forward
Contact us for a free consultation.

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