What is Money Laundering?
Money laundering is the way criminals try to make money that was gained illegally look like it was obtained legally. If you are charged with money laundering in California, it is a serious crime, so you must be advised and defended by an Orange County money laundering lawyer.
Holding piles of cash that have been stolen or otherwise illegally obtained is dangerous for criminals, but they can’t simply deposit the cash into a bank account. Instead, criminals must find ways to make illegal cash look as if it originated from a legal and legitimate source.
Successful money laundering allows a criminal or a criminal operation to continue using illegally obtained cash or other assets. Money laundering is therefore considered a “derivative” crime, in other words, a crime that arises from other underlying criminal activities.
How is Money Laundered?
Because cash and other assets may now be transferred in a variety of different ways, the state and federal laws that address money laundering are wide in scope and may apply to foreign currency exchanges, wire transfers, or to any other transaction that involves a financial institution.
Banks and credit unions are required by federal law to report all deposits that exceed $10,000, so many criminals instead make deposits under this limit so that their transactions are not reported.
Another common money laundering method is simply going to a casino, exchanging the illegally obtained cash for chips, and cashing out later. However, crime investigators have become skilled at identifying many of the suspicious activities that may point to a money laundering operation.
How is Money Laundering Linked to Illegal Drug Sales?
In the State of California, money laundering that is linked to an illegal drug operation is a distinct crime under the California Health and Safety Code if:
- The money is linked to illegal drug sales.
- The amount of laundered money exceeds $25,000 within a thirty-day period.
Unlike conventional money laundering charges, under the California Health and Safety Code, if money laundering is linked to an illegal drug sales operation, the money that is involved does not have to pass through a bank or another financial institution.
If you are charged and prosecuted for money laundering under the California Health and Safety Code, you must schedule a consultation to discuss your legal rights and options with an Orange County money laundering attorney at your very first opportunity.
When Is Money Laundering a Federal Offense?
The Money Laundering Control Act of 1986 makes money laundering a federal crime. After the 2001 attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, the Patriot Act was passed. That law includes provisions that require corporations to take practical steps to prevent financial crimes.
Together, the Money Laundering Control Act and the Patriot Act allow federal authorities to conduct a comprehensive investigation into any financial institution or other business that is suspected of hiding, handling, or laundering illegally obtained money. Under federal law:
- It is a violation of the law for a person who knows that money was obtained illegally to conduct a transaction with that money in order to commit tax evasion or to finance another crime or a criminal operation.
- A financial transaction is a violation of the law if it is conducted to disguise or hide the location, nature, ownership, control, or source of the assets involved or to avoid a legal requirement to report a financial transaction.
- It is against the law to transmit, transfer, or transport a monetary instrument outside of the U.S. in order to (1) promote a crime, (2) hide the location, nature, ownership, control, or source of the instrument, or (3) avoid a legal requirement to report a financial transaction.
What Are the Penalties for Money Laundering Convictions?
Money laundering violations under the California Health and Safety Code are considered “wobblers” under California law. In California, a wobbler is a crime that may be charged, at the prosecutor’s discretion, as either a felony or as a misdemeanor.
A federal conviction for money laundering may be penalized with a number of years in prison and a fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the assets that were involved, whichever is greater.
Under the federal Money Laundering Control Act, if you are convicted of laundering even a single dollar, you may conceivably receive the same sentence as someone who is convicted of laundering a million dollars.
How Will a Defense Attorney Help You?
You should understand that if you are prosecuted for money laundering at either the state or federal level, you will not necessarily receive a conviction. You could be charged with money laundering because of a misunderstanding when you had no criminal intent.
It is also possible that you could have been tricked or confused into taking part in a money laundering operation. Every case is unique, but if you are charged with money laundering in Southern California, or if you learn that you are the subject of a money laundering investigation, you must speak as quickly as possible with an Orange County money laundering lawyer.
Because money laundering suspects are typically non-violent and pose no immediate risk to the general public, a money laundering investigation can take months, and if you are the target, it is your future that will be at stake. Let an Orange County money laundering attorney help.
Attorney Diane C. Bass Will Work With You and for You
If you are charged with or under investigation for a money laundering crime, you must ask an experienced defense lawyer to step in on your behalf. You will need a lawyer who has substantial experience with money laundering cases to represent your interests and protect your rights.
Even if the money laundering charge that has been filed against you is a misdemeanor, you can’t take any risks. Attorney Diane C. Bass will evaluate your money laundering case with no cost or obligation, and she will fight aggressively and effectively on your behalf for the justice you need.
With more than a quarter-century of criminal defense experience, attorney Diane C. Bass advises and represents clients who are charged with money laundering and other white-collar crimes in Southern California. If you are accused of money laundering or another white-collar crime, get the legal help you need promptly and contact the Law Office of Diane C. Bass at 949-577-8368.