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Prosecuting a Money-laundering Charge – What is the Government’s Burden?

You may have heard more news lately about money-laundering crimes in connection with various ongoing federal investigations. For anyone following criminal cases, such as a white-collar crimes attorney, the push by the federal government to obtain money-laundering convictions is noticeable. One of the reasons for the push to prosecute and convict money-laundering charges could be their alleged link to terrorism.

Regardless of the reason why the government may be aggressively pursuing money-laundering charges, a white-collar crimes attorney continues to hold the government accountable for proving each element required under the burden of proof for this crime.

What is Money-laundering?

In the simplest definition of the crime, money-laundering occurs when someone performs an illegal act, gains profit from the illegal act, and then uses the illegally obtain funds to engage in a legal business. The term “money-laundering” refers to “washing money” that is “dirty” because the money was obtained through illegal activity.

Money-laundering is a white-collar crime because of the financial and nonviolent nature of the crime. However, money-laundering is a serious offense, especially because it can be linked to other crimes that could carry substantial prison sentences and fines, in addition to the penalties for money-laundering.  

If you are charged with money-laundering, you might want to consult a white-collar crimes attorney immediately because other criminal charges may be forthcoming. Having an attorney to advise you of your rights and defense strategies could help reduce the severity of future criminal charges tied to the money-laundering charges.

Two Common Types of Money-laundering Charges

You can be charged under state and/or federal money-laundering charges. Even though many states have money-laundering laws that are similar, there may be some slight variations. This article focuses on the government’s burden of proof for federal money-laundering charges.

When we review a federal money-laundering charge, we look at two common elements. The first element is intent. It is illegal to knowingly transact a financial transaction to accept money derived from an illegal activity while making it appear the money was not connected to criminal behavior. The government must prove the person “intended” to conceal the source of the money by taking steps to make it appear the money was derived from a legitimate source.

The second element of a money-laundering charge is the financial amount. If a person engages in any financial transaction in an amount greater than $10,000, the person may be charged with money-laundering if the person knew the money was derived from or related to criminal behavior. The person does not need to try to conceal the criminal behavior to be charged under this element of money-laundering.

What is the Burden of Proof for Money-laundering Charges?

The government must “connect the dots” related to the money trail to prove a money-laundering charge. In other words, they must prove the money was derived from criminal activity. Then the government must prove that the person knew the money came from criminal activity and tried to conceal that fact by taking steps to make money appear as if it came from legal transactions. As the money is transferred through numerous legitimate financial transactions, it can be more difficult to trace the money back to the original criminal activity to prove a money-laundering charge.

However, you must keep in mind the second element or underlying offense of money-laundering. You do not need to commit the criminal activity to be charged with the crime. If you knowingly engage in a financial transaction of $10,000 or more using money you knew was obtained through illegal means, you can be charged with money-laundering.

When Do You Need a White-collar Crimes Attorney?

If you suspect you are under investigation, you are approached for questioning by federal agents, or you are charged with a crime, you need a white-collar crimes attorney immediately. Contact the Sacco Tyner team today to discuss how we can assist you in your case. You could be charged with a crime, even if you were not a participant in the original criminal activity. Therefore, protect your legal rights by consulting a white-collar crimes attorney before answering any questions or providing any statements to law enforcement officials.

Posted in: Criminal Defense