Money laundering has existed in one form or another since the government began seizing “ill-gotten gain” from criminal activity. In more recent years, however, advances in technology coupled with the massive growth of the internet have resulted in more complex and creative ways to launder money. It has also caused federal authorities to place more emphasis on investigating and prosecuting those allegedly involved in money laundering schemes.
If you are the target of a money-laundering investigation or have already been charged with money laundering, you need an experienced Orlando money laundering attorney on your side immediately to ensure that your rights are protected and to begin building a winning defense. At Jonathan Rose, P.A., we have the experience as well as the commitment needed to aggressively defend you throughout the investigation and/or prosecution of a federal money laundering case.
What Is Money Laundering?
Crimes related to money laundering are predominantly governed by 18 U.S. Code § 1956 and 18 U.S. Code § 1957. Money laundering is named as such because it involves taking “dirty” money and “cleaning” it. “Dirty” money refers to money earned from illegal activity, such as drug trafficking or fraud. Having $5 million in cash sitting around is effectively worthless if there is no way to spend that cash – and spending $5 million in small increments on groceries and gas would take a lifetime. U.S. law requires large cash deposits to be reported to the authorities and those same laws prohibit crossing international borders with large sums of cash. Consequently, the only way to benefit from that $5 million in cash is to “launder” it and turn it into “clean” funds that can be spent.
Laundering money is usually accomplished in a three-step process including placement, layering, and integration. Traditionally, laundering money involved mixing the cash in with legitimately earned profits of a business, such as a restaurant or a nightclub, and depositing the funds in a bank account. Finally, the funds are “paid” back out to the original owner, usually at a discounted rate (75 cents on the dollar, for example). In today’s, digital world, money laundering often involves a complex series of electronic funds transfers that may travel the globe several times over before the money is sufficiently “washed.”
What Are the Potential Penalties for a Money Laundering Conviction?
People often think of money laundering as a victimless crime without serious repercussions if caught and convicted. The truth, however, is that money laundering has always been considered a serious criminal offense. In recent years, it has also become an international problem for law enforcement agencies around the world. Global banks were hit with $10.4 billion in fines for money-laundering violations in 2020, representing an 80 percent increase from the previous year.
Fines, however, are not the only potential penalty for a money laundering conviction. If you are convicted of laundering money under Section 1856 you face up to 20 years in prison plus a fine of up to $500,000 or twice the value of the property that was involved in the transaction, whichever amount is greater.
A conviction using Section 1957 involves the related crime of depositing or spending $10,000 or more of the proceeds from activity that violates U.S.C. Section 1956 carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison.
What Is a Target Letter, and How Can a Defense Attorney Help Me If I Received One?
If a federal law enforcement agency in the U.S. has been investigating you for money laundering, they have likely been doing so for several months or more. You may even receive a “target letter” from the United States Attorney’s Office. The target letter tells the recipient several things, including that he/she is a target in a federal grand jury investigation and the crime(s) that the recipient is suspected of committing. It may also inform you that you are being called as a witness in a Grand Jury proceeding.
Although a target letter does not mean you will definitively be charged with money laundering (or any criminal offense), it can lead to criminal charges being filed against you. The worst thing you can do is ignore the letter. Instead, consult with an experienced Orlando money laundering attorney to discuss your legal position and options. Sometimes a meeting can be set up with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to discuss the investigation and potentially prevent charges from being filed against you.
Common Money Laundering Defense Attorney Strategies
If you believe you are a target in a money-laundering investigation (whether you received an official target letter or not), it is crucial that you consult with a defense attorney immediately. The time after an investigation has started but prior to an indictment being filed offers the best opportunity to prevent the plethora of negative consequences that come from being charged with money laundering. Even if you are not ultimately convicted, being publicly accused of money laundering can ruin your reputation, your career, and your business.
If you have already been formally accused of money laundering, your defense attorney will evaluate the evidence the government has obtained against you and decide how best to proceed. Common defense strategies when a client is charged with money laundering include:
- Fund source was not illegal. Money laundering involves turning illegally obtained money into money that appears to be legally earned. Proving that the source of the funds in question was not, in fact, an illegal source negates a critical element in a money-laundering prosecution.
- Knowledge and intent. Like most criminal offenses, money laundering requires the defendant to have had the knowledge and/or the intent to “launder” the money. If your attorney can prove that you lacked that knowledge and intent, the government will not be able to meet its burden.
- Insufficient evidence. The prosecution must prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. That requires the highest level of proof in our judicial system – and a level that can be difficult to meet in a money laundering case given the complex international transactions that are frequently involved.
- Cooperation. If you are clearly guilty and the prosecution has a winning case against you, your cooperation may go a long way toward reducing your sentence.
Contact an Experienced Orlando Money Laundering Attorney
Whether you have already been charged or simply suspect that a money-laundering investigation is underway, it is crucial that you have an experienced Orlando money laundering defense attorney by your side as soon as possible. You have several important constitutional rights that can help protect you and your future; however, you must know how and when to exert these rights. Moreover, if you are ultimately charged with money laundering, the sooner your attorney starts developing your defense the more successful that defense will likely be. At Jonathan Rose, P.A. we have the experience and resources to aggressively protect your rights and defend you against money laundering allegations.
Contact an experienced Orlando money laundering defense attorney at Jonathan Rose, P.A. by calling 407-894-4555, chatting with us online, or submitting our online form today.