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DC Federal Money Laundering Charges

Money laundering is the practice of taking the profits of an illegal activity and converting them into legitimate assets. Money laundering happens when a person takes the money they obtained through criminal activity and makes it looks like the money came from a noncriminal activity. It is called laundering because the money coming from criminal behavior is perceived as being dirty. The person wants to make it look like the money came from a noncriminal activity and is clean.

There are a few different types of DC federal money laundering charges that individuals can be convicted of. In order to understand these charges and build a strong defense to avoid serious penalties, contact an experienced federal money laundering defense lawyer right away.

Financial Transactions With Intention

There are two specific federal laws that deal with money laundering. The first one says it is unlawful for a person to do a financial transaction with the intention of taking that money from a criminal source and making it look like it was not from criminal behavior.

For example, if someone steals $20,000 from a safe and puts it in their bank account, it is not money laundering. It is simply someone putting money into a bank–a straightforward financial transaction. Even though the money came from criminal activity, the person did not try to hide it to make it look like it came from a legitimate activity.

However, if they try to make it appear that the $20,000 was from sales of Girl Scout cookies or some other legitimate activity, that is a different question. In that case, they took steps to make it look like the money came from another source. That is money laundering.

The person takes steps to conceal where that money came from by making it look like it came from somewhere else besides criminal activity. That is the first type of money laundering case.

Criminal Transactions

The second type of money laundering is when a person knows a transaction greater than $10,000 was obtained through criminal activity.

In theory, the first example of the person who took $20,000 and put it into a bank account could be a violation of the second law. The person did not try to conceal it.

The second law applies when the money is criminal money and the person engages in any kind of transaction with that money in amounts greater than $10,000 and knew it was unlawfully obtained.


Money laundering is almost always charged as a secondary offense. Typically, a money laundering charge is in relation to a conspiracy, such as mail fraud, wire fraud, or racketeering.

The racketeering statute involves that criminal behavior and everyone involved. A person is targeted and charged because they are involved in a fraudulent activity or conspiracy. They generate some kind of income, but cannot report that income as criminal income so they try to make it appear to be from a legitimate source.

That person is charged with the underlying offense and also charged with money laundering because of what they did with the proceeds from the underlying criminal behavior.

Potential Penalties

Money laundering is taken seriously and is penalized harshly under federal law. A person convicted of or admitting to violating the initial money laundering statute can be sentenced up to 20 years in prison.

Using criminal money in amounts greater than $10,000 when the person knew that the money was obtained through criminal activity, can result in a conviction under the statute with a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

In a financial crimes case, the federal sentencing guidelines consider the amount of money involved to determine the sentence. With financial crimes, the largest single factor is the amount of money.

Aggravating Factors

There are other aggravating factors that can lead to enhanced penalties, including:

  • The number of people involved
  • The length of time the conspiracy or activities were ongoing
  • Whether the money was fraudulently taken from certain types of victims
  • The defendant’s specific role

The leaders of a conspiracy are usually treated more harshly at sentencing than someone who had a peripheral involvement. In addition, the defendant’s criminal history is always taken into account.

For example, when someone has limited or no criminal history, the amount of money involved is not too high, and there are no vulnerable victims, the person might not receive the maximum sentence.

How an Attorney Can Help

Facing DC federal money laundering charges can be intimidating, and the process of fighting them in the court system can be daunting. An experienced attorney can guide and advise you throughout the process, working to mitigate the charges and ultimately reduce the penalty.

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