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What To Do After Being Charged With Money Laundering

Money laundering is a process in which resources obtained through a criminal act are redistributed through legal businesses and transactions so that they appear to be legitimately earned. As money laundering is almost always a secondary act to the original criminal activity that led to the funds needing to be “cleaned” of their illicit origins, it is rarely charged alone. Federal money laundering charges can be very serious and lead to significant consequences of potentially millions in fines and up to 20 years in prison. That is solely for the money laundering charges. When one includes the criminal acts that generated the funds, there is room for even more fines and prison time.

The complexity of money laundering cases requires someone who is not only familiar with the federal criminal statutes for that crime but also any adjacent criminal activities, such as financial fraud or federal drug charges. An attorney who deals with these cases also must be skilled in understanding a myriad of financial transactions, their regulations, and the records associated with such. Your defense may hang on a single document, and without the knowledge to recognize that evidence for what it is, your defense may fail. Therefore, it is imperative to hire a skilled and highly experienced attorney should you be charged with, investigated in, or convicted of any federal case involving money laundering. Contacting the legal team at Lowther and Walker as soon as possible in your case gives you the best possible chance for a good outcome.

What To Do After Being Charged With Money Laundering

What Is Money Laundering & How Is It Committed?

Money laundering is a form of financial fraud in which illegally obtained assets are misrepresented as legally gained. There are many processes by which this can be done, but in all cases, the illicit origins of the assets are deliberately obscured. The first step in money laundering is usually the act of acquiring the funds, which in most cases is through a criminal enterprise of some kind. Since the acquisition of illicit funds comes from the commission of a crime, charges for money laundering often include charges for the crime under which the assets were acquired. This could be anything from the drug trade to racketeering. Should the crimes involve a violation of federal laws, the defendant can expect to face federal money laundering charges as well.

Once the money or assets are procured, the individual will generally introduce the money into a legitimate income stream. Most people know the show Breaking Bad follows a man who makes and sells illicit drugs, but the show also gives an excellent example of what money laundering is and how it works. In the show, the main character purchases a car wash, which is primarily a cash business that provides a service that cannot be easily measured. The money coming into the business is legitimate since the customers are paying for their cars to be washed. Money laundering occurs when the money from drug sales is integrated into the legitimate cash flow into the business without any actual service being provided. This is called placement, i.e., the placement of illicit funds into a legitimate business income.

The second part is layering, in which the illicit funds are integrated into the legal funds in some manner that makes them appear to be all legal. This is usually done through alterations in bookkeeping records or falsifying service records. In the case of Breaking Bad, the bookkeeper of the car wash, also the wife of the main character, falsifies the financial accounts to present more car washes as being done than actually were. The money then is represented in records as being earned through the legitimate and legal services the car wash provides, rather than the drug sales they actually came from.

The third and final aspect of money laundering is called integration, in which the illicit funds are fully integrated into the legal income stream. In the case of Breaking Bad, this would be by representing the funds as being from the business and depositing them into a bank as such. Any use of the money after that appears legal and honestly obtained. The money launderer can then purchase things without drawing attention to their criminal activities.

Money laundering activities are prosecuted under two federal statutes, 18 U.S.C. § 1956 and 18 U.S.C. § 1957, both of which are part of the larger Money Laundering Control Act of 1986. Both laws necessitate proving that the individual being charged knew the money they were laundering came from illicit activities, but in 18 U.S.C. §1956, the prosecution does not have to prove that the individual knew anything about the crimes that led to the funds existing, only that they knew the assets were obtained in the act of a crime.

What Is Money Laundering

How Can Someone Be Charged With Money Laundering?

Depending on the way the money laundering occurred, an individual may face different types of money laundering charges. Here are the six primary charges associated with money laundering.

Structuring: This is also known as smurfing, and it occurs when large sums of money are broken into smaller increments to avoid suspicion from banks. Often, the money will be turned into cashier’s checks or money orders so that it appears more legitimate and less questionable.

Trade-Based Laundering: This form of money laundering is similar to embezzlement. It occurs when invoices, business statements, and financial records are changed to make dirty money appear clean under the guise of “business profits.”

Cash-Business Laundering: Certain businesses deal with a lot of cash, and the bank has no way of legitimizing these funds. Because of this, some people will use cash businesses as a front for criminal activity. Cash businesses tend to draw a lot of attention from banks, however, and this is a common charge of those accused of money laundering.

Casino Laundering: Legal gambling is completely fine, but when you take dirty money and turn it into chips, then gamble a bit and cash in those chips, it’s considered casino laundering. People will claim the money as gambling winnings, but since the original source of their buy-in wasn’t legitimate, it can be questioned in court.

Real Estate Laundering: With house flipping on the rise, people often will buy a house in cash, flip it, and turn around and sell it for a quick profit. But when a home is purchased with dirty money and then quickly resold, it’s considered real estate laundering. While the money earned is generally considered legal real estate earnings, the process is still illegal and considered criminal money laundering.

What Are Money Laundering Penalties & Punishments?

Unlike other federal crimes, there is no mandatory minimum penalty or punishment for money laundering. However, because of the severity and significance of the crime, courts take money laundering very seriously and tend to deal out very harsh consequences when money laundering is involved in criminal activity.

Someone who is convicted of money laundering can be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000. Those charged with money laundering may be fined up to twice the value of the property in question. Generally, the larger value of the two listed above will be the fine.

As mentioned previously, money laundering is typically charged alongside other criminal activities and charges. Generally, the worst possible sentence for money laundering is not what is given as a punishment for the crime, but those being tried are required to be notified of what the most extreme sentence could potentially be. But since other crimes are often involved, the actual sentencing for money laundering is not as high as it could be.

A lot is taken into consideration when sentencing someone charged with money laundering. One of the biggest factors is the person’s knowledge of the source of the money. An individual may know that the money is coming from an illegal source and carry on with the laundering, but they may not know all the intricate details of the transactions or even where the money is actually coming from. This lack of knowledge is good for those being prosecuted, as they are not deemed as significant in the illegality of the transactions and may be given a lesser penalty because of it.

What To Do If Arrested, Indicted Or Charged With Money Laundering?

An indictment is a preliminary jury hearing that determines if the evidence held by the prosecution is adequate justification for charges to be made against you formally. It is neither a determination of guilt nor a verdict of guilt, merely a consensus amongst a jury that the evidence presented meets the criteria for reasonable doubt that you MAY have committed a crime and, therefore, should face charges. In the case of money laundering, they must prove that you not only knew the money involved was derived from a criminal act, but that you also partook in the process of laundering the money from start to finish and committed one of the three major steps in money laundering. This includes layering, transfer, and implementation. Layering represents the insertion of criminally obtained money into a financial institution; transfer is misleading said institution about the origin of the money, and implementation is the transfer of that money back into the legal economy.

A grand jury is not the same as a trial jury; instead, there may be up to 23 members, and they are tasked with evaluating existing physical evidence and witness statements. If you are not already under arrest, a warrant may be issued for your arrest, and you may be detained at any point if a grand jury determines the evidence is enough to justify charges. In some cases, you will be given a chance to surrender yourself to the police at a given time and date. In most instances, however, you will already have been detained before the grand jury is called. The earlier in this process that you contact a skilled and experienced attorney to help you deal with having been charged with money laundering, the better.

Hire A Money Laundering Defense Lawyer

Due to the complicated logistics of defending a money laundering case, it is imperative to hire an experienced money laundering defense attorney. Defense strategies are often based on proving that the client had no knowledge of the criminal origins of funds, was not involved in a complete transaction, or did not engage in all three steps necessary to convict one of money laundering. This often requires the tedious task of examining thousands of financial, personal, and professional documents for even a single word or statement that will exonerate you of guilt.

An experienced money laundering attorney must also know the laws and regulations for often complex programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, banking and investment laws, and federal tax laws. Documents must have their veracity confirmed and arguments made for inclusion as evidence on your behalf. It takes skill to understand these documents, how they apply to a money laundering case, and how to utilize them in the best possible way to create a meaningful defense.

Fines for money laundering can run quite high, and prison terms can be as much as 20 years per offense. Studies have shown that using an experienced lawyer can increase the chances of winning your case by 14%. Your money laundering attorney does not need to prove that you are innocent, merely that there is a reasonable chance that you do not meet the criteria for guilt in the crime you are charged with. Being able to readily identify evidence that can support that doubt requires a great deal of knowledge gained through experience.

Hire A Money Laundering Defense Lawyer

Only Discuss Your Case With Your Money Laundering Defense Attorney

While being investigated or arrested is a stressful and emotional experience, it is critically important to remain calm and immediately contact your money laundering defense attorney. Anything you say to a law enforcement official can be used against you in a court of law, so it is absolutely vital to remain silent and to only speak with your defense attorney. You have a legal right not to self-incriminate yourself by speaking and asking for legal representation immediately. Act on this right and demand your attorney be present for any questioning. Do not speak to others around you, even if they are not law enforcement or working for the prosecution. Other people can be brought as witnesses against you, so you should refrain entirely from discussing your case with anyone other than your counsel.

Collection of evidence can include wiretapping devices in your home, so you should also refrain from discussing the facts of your case with anyone at home, by phone, email, or text. Conversations with your attorney are legally protected and cannot be used in a courtroom against you, so it is ok to talk to your lawyer. Allow that individual to guide you on the best way to discuss your case with them and in what contexts you should and should not talk about the issue.

You may want to convey your innocence to the police or the prosecution vigorously and early. That is more than understandable, but it can give information to the opposition that can easily be taken out of context. Do not sign anything given to you without the express permission of your money laundering defense attorney. Interviews can also be videotaped, so do not speak to yourself while in the interrogation room or a cell. While it would be nice to think that the prosecution is equally interested in achieving justice and proving you innocent if you did not commit the crime, it is not their role to exonerate you. The only one on your side unequivocally is your attorney. Ultimately, the only person you should be talking to about the case is your lawyer.

Discuss Your Case With Your Money Laundering Defense Attorney

Gather All Evidence That Could Be Used To Build Up Your Defense Against Money Laundering Charges

Evidence is a critical tool for the defense team. It allows them to build a solid defense plan and to show, beyond doubt, that you are innocent of the crimes you are being charged with. In most cases of money laundering, there is extensive evidence that creates a pattern that highly suggests a crime was committed. There is rarely a single smoking gun, and so the prosecution hinges on the overall burden of evidence being enough to convince a jury that someone is guilty of a crime. That collection of evidence is called “circumstantial evidence”, which means that there is adequate proof to imply guilt of a crime in total versus a single piece of evidence being the lynchpin of the case.

Circumstantial evidence relies on an overwhelming collection of incriminating actions and behaviors, and so any defense will require accounting for and offering a reasonable explanation of those factors. To ensure your defense team has adequate evidence to support your innocence, you should begin by gathering all possible evidence as soon as you can. The types of evidence that can be used in your defense can also be used in your prosecution. These include but are not limited to the following:

· Testimony from supposed accomplices to the “crime” that led to the assets.
· Testimony from law enforcement officers on what was found, seen, and said by the defendant and others.
· Testimony from expert witnesses, such as forensic accountants and tax officials.
· Any tax files or documents, including audit histories, receipts, etc.
· Written evidence such as documents, correspondences, and journals.
· Digital versions of the above, as well as communication by email and text message.
· Audio recordings of conversations or any transcripts of such.
· Character witnesses may be used to establish your good character and unlikely association with criminal enterprises.
· Personal writings, such as journals, day planners, and calendars.

By providing your money laundering lawyer with as much evidence as possible, they can begin to plan a reasonable defense of your charges. Absolutely anything that can establish your innocence should be included, particularly if they are objective records that can establish a solid alibi for the crimes. It can also help to have others you know to share any evidence they may have with your team. Knowing what to gather and when is something your experienced money laundering defense team can help you with.

Gather All Evidence That Could Be Used To Build Up Your Defense Against Money Laundering Charges

Build A Strong Case Against Your Money Laundering Charges

Attorneys have a legal obligation to represent their clients to the best of their abilities and with their client’s best interests in mind at all times. Choosing the right lawyer to represent you is absolutely vital, as specialty legal practice requires expertise and knowledge that others may not possess. A lawyer without money laundering defense experience cannot always serve the best interests of their clients in such cases. Not because they are not excellent attorneys but because that is simply not their field of expertise. In the same way you’d seek a cardiologist for a heart problem, you seek a money laundering attorney for such charges.

Once you have obtained a skilled money laundering attorney, they can then begin to work with you to develop a reasonable defense against the charges you are facing. This begins with being open and honest with your lawyer so that they know all the facts in the case as you perceive them. They will then collect evidence from you and the prosecutorial team so that they can work on establishing a plan. This plan may be to show clear evidence that you did not know assets were obtained in a criminal manner or that they were laundered to conceal a criminal origin. They may find that there is evidence that others were threatening you or that there isn’t enough evidence at all to justify a guilty charge.

Regardless of what type of defense your money laundering attorney chooses, they will do so from a place of experience and expertise. The attorneys at Lowther and Walker have successfully defended many federal white-collar criminal cases, some involving multiple millions of dollars in assets. Their success speaks for itself and should be a comforting sign that this is a team with the ability to represent you well and obtain a good outcome.

Build A Strong Case Against Your Money Laundering Charges

Review The Progress Of Your Money Laundering Case

Defendants in the United States have a right to be kept informed of the progress of their legal case. The ethical mandate for communication with the client is one that all attorneys should adhere to and can be held liable for failing to maintain. You have a right at all times to request information regarding the progress of your case, and should you do so, the legal team is obliged to respond in a reasonable time frame, either with the information or with a time in which it can be expected to be given.

Lawyers must inform the client any time there is an action in the court case that requires the consent or permission of the client. For example, if the prosecution offers the defense team a plea bargain, the attorney on your money laundering charges must then approach you with that deal and get your permission to move forward. They must ensure that you understand all aspects of the agreement as they affect you, the client. Exceptions to this would be if you or the court have designated an attorney to make those choices on your behalf. You must still be informed promptly of any action that an attorney, so empowered, takes on your behalf.

Lawyers must also inform the client of the plan for their defense in your case and the potential outcomes that could arise. They should explain what chances each outcome has and what steps they are taking to ensure one or the other is successful. For example, when you hire your lawyer and have an initial consultation, they may explain that they are experts in this field and have handled other similar cases by using a particular defense. In their experience, that defense has a particular success rate, and they foresee a similar outcome for you. They may also say that they do not see a positive outcome and that they expect a guilty verdict. Either way, they have an obligation to be honest and explain the process and outcomes to you clearly.

Review The Progress Of Your Money Laundering Case

What Are The Defenses Against Money Laundering?

Defenses against money laundering are complicated and must be individualized for each and every case. There is no one size fits all defense, and so a knowledgeable defense attorney for money laundering charges is necessary to ensure that all avenues of defense are explored. The defense of a client begins from the moment the client hires the attorney to represent them. Evidence is gathered and examined, witnesses questioned, plans made for a reasonable defense, and a courtroom tactic for presenting that defense. The skilled lawyer will immediately gather as much information as possible from you, the defendant, and from other sources. The more they know, the easier it is for them to defend you. There are several avenues of defense that can be taken.
1) Acting Under Duress
2) Lack of Evidence
3) Lack of Intent
4) Technical Issues

Acting Under Duress means that the defendant was only participating in the criminal acts out of fear of harm to themselves, their family or loved ones, or their property. Lack of Evidence means the prosecution does not have adequate evidence to support their accusation of guilt. One can ask, “is there a reasonable explanation for this action other than the individual being guilty?”

Lack of Intent means that the defendant neither knew the assets came from a criminal source nor that they were actively misrepresenting those illicit assets as being legitimate.

Technical Issues can occur in any court filings, evidence gathering, treatment of witnesses, and courtroom discourse. The law requires a very specific set of technical standards to be met in all cases and in all aspects of those cases. For example, failure to obtain a warrant based on adequate evidence could lead to the entire warrant being declared invalid, and all evidence acquired from any related search using that warrant would be excluded from trial. While this sounds like getting away with things on a technicality, it is critical to ensure the ethical behavior of all law enforcement and prosecutorial staff when handling cases and evidence.

All of these require that the defense team understands the evidence before them and is able to develop an appropriate defense based on that as well as the intricacies of the laws surrounding money laundering. You may also require defense against other criminal charges, particularly if you were involved in the crimes that led to the assets being laundered.

At any point, the prosecution may offer the defendant a plea deal or bargain. These are agreements with the prosecutorial team that often requires the defendant to plead guilty to some of the crimes, or lesser related crimes, they are being charged with. The guilty plea Is often made in exchange for a reduced sentence or some other agreement, such as serving time in a particular facility to be close to family. The prosecution may offer a plea deal with leniency in exchange for testimony against fellow conspirators. Either way, criminal cases are incredibly expensive and time-consuming to prosecute and defend. The unknown outcomes and high costs make it ideal for both sides to consider settling upon a plea bargain rather than going to trial.

What Are The Defenses Against Money Laundering

Proving Lack Of Intent In Committing Money Laundering Crimes

A key element of any charge for money laundering is the knowledge on the part of the accused. Did the individual know the money was from a criminal enterprise and did they know their activities in handling the money were for the purpose of money laundering? The former is not always necessary for a criminal conviction, but the latter is. To be found guilty of money laundering, the prosecution must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you knew you were doing so with each action.

In more simple terms, if you didn’t know the money was “dirty” and you were laundering it, then you can claim a lack of intent as a defense against money laundering charges. If you did know you were laundering money but did not know how it was acquired, simply that it was obtained illegally, then you are still guilty of money laundering but not in violation of both federal statutes. Therefore, your charges may be reduced. The ability to differentiate between these two evidentiary standards requires experience. The skilled money laundering defense lawyer can determine if there is adequate evidence to prove you did or did not know the money was being laundered. Remember, while the prosecution bears the burden of proving their position that you committed the charges made against you, your legal team also is responsible for refuting that evidence. It means not just examining the existing evidence but sourcing additional evidence of their own that can dispute the prosecution’s claims. They must understand how each and every document can be used in the courtroom to prove your innocence.

Claiming Committing Money Laundering In Duress

One possible defense in money laundering cases is to claim that one acted under duress. This means that someone else forced them to commit the criminal act of money laundering under threat of harm to them, their loved ones, or their property. For example, a person might be a bookkeeper for a cash business and not be part of a criminal enterprise. If the person who wants the money laundered were to threaten to harm the bookkeeper or their family, then the bookkeeper has a reasonable defense in court.

While duress is a viable defense, the threat to self or others must be of greater harm than the act of the crime itself. For instance, if the person threatens to flatten your tires, then it is not a reasonable form of duress for the commission of grand larceny or money laundering. If the person threatens to harm you or burn down your home, it is a reasonable defense.

Understanding the minutiae of the laws surrounding the duress defense makes it even more necessary to have a skilled lawyer on your side.
Claiming Committing Money Laundering In Duress

Stating Lack Of Evidence In Committing Money Laundering

Individuals in America are considered innocent until proven guilty. It is the role of the prosecution to use validated and factual evidence to support their assertions of guilt. They must not only provide such evidence, but they must also show that there are no other reasonable explanations for the evidence, i.e., proving beyond a reasonable doubt. In a money laundering case, two main factors must be proven in order for a conviction to be made. One, that the defendant intended to deliberately obfuscate the origins of the assets for the purposes of creating a falsely legitimate source. Two, that the assets were, in fact, from an illicit source and came from criminal acts.

Evidence in money laundering cases often includes paper and digital documents, including detailed accounting records, communications, and more. Video and audio recordings of conversations may exist, as well as eyewitnesses. You, as the defendant, have a right to have your legal team question any witness giving testimony against you in the courtroom. You also have the right to have any and all evidence that the prosecution has been shared with the defense team in a timely manner so that it can be properly examined.

The prosecution must show where any evidence came from and that it was obtained legally. This means that any evidence seized from your home, business, or other spaces, was obtained with a legally acquired warrant. The warrant must be signed by a judge and be based on a reasonable assumption that evidence of a crime exists in the space being searched. Authorities cannot search your home or workplace without permission or a legal warrant. If you are confronted with anyone attempting such a search, it is critical to reach out to your money laundering defense attorney immediately. They can understand the scope of the warrant and ensure a search does not violate the warrant or your rights in any way.

Benefits Of Hiring Money Laundering Defense Lawyers

Money laundering cases are incredibly detailed and complex. They involve many criminal statutes in federal law as well as accounting principles, financial fraud knowledge, and more. Having a skilled and experienced attorney at your side when you are facing money laundering charges is the best thing you can do to secure your innocence in a court of law. They can also be of great value in helping you prevent inadvertently committing money laundering by advising you on existing laws so that you can be in full compliance with all regulations. If you are ever asked to perform a task that you suspect may be at risk for prosecution for money laundering later, it is best to consult an attorney to understand your legal liabilities and obligations.

Having a money laundering legal specialist also helps you obtain the best outcomes when in the courtroom or when working with the prosecution. They know enough to be able to effectively advise on the best course of action to prevent you from serving any time in federal prison or losing all assets to forfeiture. Since fines can exceed $500,000 or double the amount involved in the criminal act, and prison terms can be 20 years or more, the risk of not using a skilled money laundering attorney is high. At Lowther and Walker, we share some of the results of our major cases on our website. There you can see the efficacy of our counsel in money laundering and other white-collar criminal cases. For example, in a recent case, Lowther and Walker was able to obtain a mistrial and a return of all seized assets for a client accused of money laundering and healthcare fraud.
Benefits Of Hiring Money Laundering Defense Lawyers

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