There are many so-called “white-collar crimes” that federal prosecutors take a keen interest in. One of those offenses is money laundering. In general, this crime involves concealing the unlawful origin of money. Due to the potential for tax evasion charges, some people involved in illegal activity struggle to make use of the proceeds of their activities. By laundering the money through a legitimate business or enterprise, the allegation is that they create a false paper trail that allows them to use that money without arousing suspicion.
Money laundering is often an “add-on” crime, meaning it frequently comes with other serious federal charges. After all, there must be some sort of underlying criminal activity for money laundering to become necessary. That does not mean federal prosecutors do not bring individual money laundering cases. This has become increasingly common in recent years when they have scant evidence of other suspected criminal activity.
If you are facing federal money laundering charges in Houston, contact a federal criminal defense attorney right away. Attorney Doug Murphy has a lengthy record of winning acquittals for his clients, and he has extensive experience in federal courts. Contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. to learn more.
Federal Money Laundering Laws
Federal money laundering charges are governed by U.S.C. § 1956. Under the statute, money laundering involves either the transportation of money or a financial transaction. The purpose of this transaction must be either to promote an unlawful activity or conceal the illicit source of money.
The penalties for a money laundering conviction could have a devastating impact on your life. In total, you could face up to 20 years in federal prison if found guilty. The potential fine for a money laundering conviction could also be substantial. The statute indicates the fine is the greater of the following amounts:
- $500,000; or
- Double the amount that was laundered.
While these penalties are severe, it is important to remember that there is no guarantee a jury will convict you. It is possible to win a money-laundering trial or even see the charges against you dismissed. Finding the right legal counsel could go a long way toward helping you beat these charges.
Examples of Money Laundering
The use of examples is a helpful way to wrap your mind around a money laundering charge. Consider the examples below:
Walter is a drug kingpin. Despite bringing in millions of dollars each year in the drug trade, on paper Walter owns a car wash. This car wash has all the trappings of a legitimate business. It is located on a major thoroughfare, has a staff of employees, and operates as a fully-functioning business. While the car wash brings in a revenue of about $100,000 per year, Walter reports that income as more than $1 million. He stuffs his registers with drug cash, giving the impression of a booming business. Walter pays taxes on this income and spends it, completely free of any ties to his illicit business. In this example, Walter has committed money laundering.
Mark is a financial adviser with money troubles. His brother-in-law, Nathan, is a wealthy drug deal. Nathan agrees to provide Mark with interest-free loans. In exchange, Mark agrees to set up Nathan with a fake job at his business. Nathan then pays cash to Mark to cover his own salary, effectively transferring the funds to Nathan without a paper trail. In this case, both Mark and Nathan are guilty of money laundering.
Defenses to Federal Money Laundering Charges
Like with any criminal charges, there are successful defenses to a money laundering charge. These defenses are not interchangeable, as the facts of your case will determine your options. An experienced federal defense attorney could assist you in identifying the right defense in your case.
Many of the defenses available in a money laundering case are common with any white-collar crimes. These defenses can vary dramatically, however. Some of the most common defenses are discussed below.
Business transactions can be complex, especially when large amounts of money are concerned. In some cases, what appears to be money laundering is simply an accounting error or unsound business practice. If you are innocent of the charge, you might be able to show the prosecutor cannot meet their burden of proof.
Lack of Intent
It is impossible to unknowingly commit money laundering. In some cases, you could be involved in monetary transactions that are funded by illegal activity without knowing it. If you are unaware of a conspiracy to launder money, you are not guilty of the crime of money laundering.
The idea of a criminal blackmailing an innocent person to commit a crime might seem like something out of a movie, but it happens more than you might think. If a person only participates in a scheme to launder money because they believe their life is at risk, they could have a viable defense against a money laundering charge.
Money laundering is a crime that heavily relies on financial records and other documentation. If the police come by that documentation unlawfully, it could be barred from use at trial.
You enjoy protection from unlawful searches and seizures thanks to the 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution. If law enforcement searches your business or seizes records without a warrant, your attorney could work to suppress that evidence at trial. This is a powerful defense. If enough of the evidence against you is suppressed, federal prosecutors could have little choice but to dismiss the charges against you.
Work with a Diligent Houston Money Laundering Attorney
No attorney can promise you a positive outcome in your case. What board-certified criminal defense attorney Doug Murphy can promise is relentless, aggressive representation. Doug Murphy is prepared to thoroughly investigate your case and develop the strongest defense possible. If he is unable to have your case dismissed, Doug Murphy is prepared to defend your rights before a jury of your peers.
If you are ready to get started on your case, there is no benefit in delaying your search for legal counsel. Contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. right away to move forward with your defense.