The crime of money laundering got its name from what it effectively involves – turning “dirty” money into “clean” money. A staggering two to five percent of global GDP, or $800 billion – $2 trillion dollars, is laundered globally each year according to the United Nations. In today’s electronic age, money laundering operations are increasingly difficult to investigate given the ease with which money travels digitally around the world. If you are convicted of money laundering in the United States, however, you face serious penalties, including a lengthy period of incarceration. At Jonathan Rose P.A., we have the experience and resources necessary to protect, advise, and defend you if you are under investigation for money laundering.
What Is Money Laundering?
Money laundering is a federal crime governed by 18 U.S.C. § 1956. Under that statute, a person may be convicted of money laundering if he/she “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.” The actual source of the funds must be one of the specified forms of criminal activity identified by the statute (18 U.S.C.§1956(c)(7)) or those incorporated by reference from the RICO statute (18 U.S.C.§1961(1)).
As is the case with most criminal statutes, the government must prove that the defendant had the requisite intent. Money laundering requires the prosecution to prove one of the following:
- The defendant had the intent to promote the carrying on of specified unlawful activity.
- The defendant had the intent to engage in conduct constituting a violation of section 7201 or 7206 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986
- That the defendant knew the transaction was 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
- To avoid a transaction reporting requirement under State or Federal law
Understanding Federal Investigations
Suspected money laundering operations are investigated by federal law enforcement agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.), the Internal Revenue Service (I.R.S.), and the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Because money laundering is typically associated with an underlying crime, such as drug trafficking, terrorism, or “white collar” crimes, law enforcement agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Agency (D.E.A.), Department of Homeland Security, and the Securities and Exchange Commission (S.E.C.) may also be involved.
If any of these agencies are investigating a suspected money-laundering operation you can expect them to be listening, watching, and gathering evidence for months before arrests are made. If a federal grand jury oversees the investigation, there are few limitations to its investigative powers. Moreover, because a federal grand jury is not required to declare a specific target, anyone even peripherally involved with the investigation could become a target.
What to Do If You Are You Being Investigated for Money Laundering
- Are you a suspect? The most important first step is to determine that you are being investigated. When money laundering is associated with a white-collar crime, a suspect may receive a “target letter” from the government. As the name implies, a target letter tells you that you are a target in a federal grand jury investigation. It should also inform you of the crimes being investigated. When money laundering is part of other types of criminal enterprises (such as drug trafficking) you are not likely to receive a target letter alerting you to your status as a suspect. You may, however, have other reasons to believe you are part of an investigation.
- Contact a money laundering defense attorney. Whether you were directly notified or have indirect reason to believe you are under investigation for money laundering, you should contact an experienced federal money laundering defense attorney immediately. Your attorney can confirm that you are under investigation and/or respond to the target letter you received. Most importantly, an experienced attorney will make sure your rights are protected during the investigation and may be able to prevent charges from being filed against you.
- Do not ignore a federal grand jury subpoena. A grand jury subpoena is an order to appear and give testimony and/or produce documents. Never ignore a grand jury subpoena. Consult with your federal defense attorney about how to respond. Your attorney can provide advice as well as help figure out if you are merely a witness in a federal investigation or a potential target.
- Do not talk to anyone about the investigation. From the moment you have reason to believe you are under investigation for money laundering, you should exercise your right to remain silent. Do not discuss the investigation or your potential role in the money laundering scheme with anyone – especially a law enforcement officer. Only an experienced federal defense attorney can help you decide if cooperating with the investigation is in your best interest.
- Do not destroy evidence. It may be tempting to destroy financial records or alter documents that could be used against you in a money-laundering investigation. Doing so, however, could lead to additional charges for obstruction of justice. Instead of giving in to temptation, talk to your defense attorney about how you should handle potential evidence.
Contact an Experienced Money Laundering Defense Attorney
When your freedom and your future are potentially at stake, you need an experienced federal defense attorney on your side. If you are being investigated for money laundering, contact Jonathan Rose P.A today by calling 407-894-4555 or filling out our online contact form.