Elements of a DC Federal Money Laundering Case
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.
Element of Intent
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 someone putting money into a bank. It is a 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; 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.
Importance of Financial Amount
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 is 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 dirty money; they knew it was criminal behavior.
Burden of Proof
In a money laundering case, the prosecution must show what was done with the money. They must connect that activity to the individuals and the criminal activity that started the whole chain. The prosecution must show that the individuals involved with the money knew that it came from criminal activity and they intended to conceal it to make it look like the money came from a legitimate activity. There is an extra step and an extra level of activity that the prosecution must prove. That makes it interesting because each time a level is added that the government must prove, the defense has another level to challenge.
To be convicted of money laundering, an individual must be the person who performed the criminal activity that the funds came from. It may seem that if the government cannot prove the person did the crime, they cannot be convicted for using the money and trying to make it look like it was legitimate, however that is usually not the case.The statute does not have to link a person to performing the criminal activity. If the person knew that the money was criminal in nature, they do not have to be the one who did the criminal activity.
In other words, someone who acts as the launderer or the accountant for a criminal conspiracy can be charged for underlying conspiracy and charged with money laundering. They can be convicted of both. The common misconception about money laundering is that the person must do the underlying crime. Another misconception is that if the person is only involved in money laundering, they cannot be convicted of underlying offenses. That is not true either because if an individual is involved in a chain of the criminal activity, they can be convicted of conspiracy. Someone convicted of conspiracy faces the same penalties as someone who actually committed.