West Palm Beach Money Laundering Defense Lawyer
Experienced Palm Beach County federal criminal attorneys
Money laundering is a federal crime that has been popularized by many crime movies and prime time television shows. Although the nature of financial transactions have changed as cryptocurrency has become more widely accepted, virtually all lucrative financially-motivated crimes also involve money laundering at some point. The money laundering process is so critical to criminal enterprises because it is the means by which the proceeds of illegal activities are reintroduced into the mainstream financial system. The process of making “dirty” money clean usually involves multiple people at different stages. Therefore, it is possible that people may aid in money laundering without any knowledge that a crime is in progress. These unsuspecting parties to the crime may suddenly be surprised by a visit or call from federal authorities. In the event that the federal government makes contact with an individual based on suspicions of money laundering, the first move is remain quiet and hire a qualified Florida money laundering defense lawyer before speaking to anyone.
Protection against self-incrimination
Before filing formal charges it is not unusual for a federal government agency to contact a person and request an interview if they suspect the individual may have been involved in a federal crime. Most people who have never been questioned by law enforcement would view the interview as an opportunity to clear things up with the government and explain their lack of involvement. However, statements made in these voluntary conversations are sometimes used to intensify the investigation of the person and to ultimately make a formal accusation, which includes filing charges, making an arrest, and bringing the person before a judge for indictment. Sometimes people inadvertently say things that draw unnecessary suspicion simply because they are nervous. In other cases, law enforcement may induce nervousness by making threats and unnecessarily intimidating people who have not been charged with a crime. A Florida money laundering defense attorney can explain the investigative process before the client agrees to speak to law enforcement. The attorney will also likely want to be present during the conversation to ensure the government respects the person’s constitutional rights by not using tactics that unjustly persuade the individual to suggest he or she may have been involved in the crime.
How money laundering works
Money laundering can be classified into two types: promotional and concealment. Promotional money laundering involves transactions that took place for the purpose of promoting the original criminal activity that produced the illegal funds. An example would be a drug cartel using the money to buy more drugs for distribution and sale. Concealment money laundering takes place to cover up the original illegal source of the funds. An example of concealment money laundering would be using money derived from selling stolen artwork to invest in flipping houses. People often think money laundering is accomplished by simply owning a business such as a pizza restaurant, nail salon, or a literal laundromat. These businesses are commonly referred to as a “fronts” and are used as a cover-up when depositing them illicit funds into the bank. While a money launderer may use a front to deposit dirty income, the process is usually much more involved and requires more steps. Money laundering generally takes place in three stages: placement, layering, and integration.
After money is derived from illegal activity, the proceeds are initially placed into the financial system during what is termed the Placement stage. At this stage, money launders are most vulnerable to the dirty money being traced back to the illegal activity through which the individual or criminal enterprise obtained it. Simply depositing money into a traditional bank account raises certain red flags due to government reporting requirements. Nevertheless, placement can be achieved in many ways:
- repaying loans or paying off credit cards;
- buying gambling chips or betting on sporting events;
- physically transporting money across international borders, which may involve the help of a smuggler;
- exchanging the illegal proceeds for foreign currency;
- using a front to comingle dirty funds with legitimate business sales.
After the money has been placed into the mainstream financial system, the money launderers will engage in a series of complicated transactions to obscure the trail between the money and its source. An example of layering might include exchanging money that was physically moved across international borders as cash then depositing the local currency into offshore accounts and dividing the money among different investments. The money is constantly moved to evade detection. During the layering phase, multiple parties enter the equation in roles that assist with the transactions and help manage the investments. Criminal organizations will often place the funds into bank accounts that are owned by people who may not have been involved with the original crime that yielded the illegal proceeds.
After the dirty money has been processed through several transactions, the money is returned to the launderers from sources that appear to be legitimate. In keeping with the discreet nature of the process, the money is returned in a manner that does not draw attention to the original money launderers. For example, the person or group may receive the funds back in the form of real estate, expensive artwork, jewelry, or cryptocurrency. At that point, the valuable item must simply be sold, or exchanged if in the form of cryptocurrency, to return the money back to its original liquid state. The money launders may then do whatever they please with the funds.
Federal money laundering penalties in West Palm Beach
The federal government pursues and prosecutes money laundering as a serious crime. Money laundering charges may also be used to convict individuals who are engaging in other crimes the government has a more difficult time proving. Federal sentencing for money laundering offenses is first determined by whether or not the accused knowingly engaged in a transaction to move the proceeds of unlawful activity or if the person had no knowledge of the original crime. Defendants who are proven to have known they were engaging in money laundering may be sentenced to a maximum of 20 years in prison. If the prosecution can establish a defendant engaged in money laundering but is unable to prove he or she was aware of the crime, the individual may be sentenced to a maximum of 10 year in federal prison if the monetary amount of the transaction exceeded $10,0000. Therefore, it is possible for a person who had no idea he or she was helping someone else launder money to be sentenced to time in federal prison.
Contact a West Palm Beach money laundering defense lawyer
If you find yourself in the position of being accused or interviewed in relation to a federal money laundering case, contact a Florida money laundering lawyer immediately. Unlike other serious offenses, money laundering does not require proof of knowledge of the illegal act. Therefore, it is imperative that you enlist the help of an attorney who can effectively gather the evidence you need to prove your case in court. Contact a seasoned federal money laundering lawyer today to receive a free case evaluation and knowledgeable legal counsel to help you determine the best way to respond to a potentially life-altering federal criminal charge.