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Money Laundering

Money Laundering

Illegal private enterprises can make large amounts of money for those involved. Drugs, arms, human trafficking, various white-collar crimes, financiers of terrorism, and other illegal businesses generate large amounts of cash that are difficult to explain to a bank teller or bank manager without setting off alarms.

People involved in these organizations need to “clean” the money and make it look as if it were from a legitimate business so they can bank it and have access. Money laundering is the process that conceals both the origins of the cash in question and the crime itself that was responsible for the cash.

Three-Step Process of Money Laundering


Money is placed into the legitimate banking system in small enough amounts that do not trigger financial reporting by the bank or other financial institution. This may also involve smuggling cash into foreign countries and depositing some into bank accounts there. Cash-based businesses like gambling casinos, restaurants, and laundromats are an easy way to mix illegitimate funds with legitimate ones. These businesses are sometimes called “fronts.” The funds can also purchase real estate with so-called “shell companies” that only exist on paper. “Invoicing” is another method of placement that involves incorrect amounts to an entity, falsely describing the goods or services invoiced, or indicating shipping where there is none. This documentation shows a legitimate reason for the funds transfer, making it look like a normal business transaction.


The funds are then concealed by a series of bookkeeping moves, such as loan repayment, that cover their source. The intent is to layer multiple financial transactions to hide the audit trail. Overseas financial transactions are frequently employed to disguise the owner and origins of the funds, making all of them look legitimate.


The money is now part of the total amount and no longer distinguishable from legitimate funds. They can be spent from the account and used as any other revenue through a legitimate banking source. This can include the purchase of luxury items such as fine art, real estate, fine jewelry, stocks, or other legitimate investments.

21st Century money laundering can also include electronic fund transfers. The rise of online banking institutions, anonymous online payment services, and peer-to-peer (P2P, such as Zelle and CashApp) transfers via mobile phones has made illegal money transfer detection significantly more complicated. Proxy servers and anonymous software further impair the identification of the integration phase of money laundering since funds can be moved or withdrawn without leaving any trace of an Internet Protocol (IP) address.

Illicit funds can be laundered through different online channels including auctions, gambling websites, and virtual gaming platforms. Here, illegally obtained money is converted into gaming currency, then transformed back into real, spendable, and untraceable “clean” money.

Additionally, money laundering schemes may exploit cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. Although not entirely anonymous, they are often utilized in illicit activities such as blackmail, drug trafficking, and other criminal endeavors because of their higher level of anonymity when compared to traditional fiat currency.

Potential Penalties

A conviction for just money laundering under 18 U.S.C. § 1956 includes fines of $500,000, or twice the value of the money laundered, whichever is greater, and 20 years in prison. Conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 1957 includes fines of $10,000 and ten years in prison per charge when a financial institution and intent are involved and the funds were knowingly from criminal activity.

While money laundering is a crime by itself, individuals can also be charged with other crimes at the same time, such as drug trafficking, counterfeit goods, cryptocurrency schemes, and various frauds. If convicted, there are sentencing guidelines for each charge, adding to the eventual prison sentence.

In addition to harsh fines, a conviction also includes “disgorgement”—the seizure and forfeiture of any assets, including cash, property, vehicles, and other assets involved in or from the overall money laundering organization.

Defenses Against Money Laundering

An accusation of money laundering is not a conviction, but you must take it seriously. To prove the case, prosecutors must show that a defendant both committed money laundering and did so knowingly with deliberate intent to conceal or promote an illegal activity.

Defending accusations of money laundering is based on refuting the prosecutor’s evidence and presenting a different version of events to the judge and jury that raises doubts about the charges, including:

  • You did not participate in unlawful conduct or illegal activity
  • You did not know that the money came from illegal activity, indicating a lack of intent
  • The money did not come from any illegal activity
  • The prosecution cannot prove the crime beyond a reasonable doubt because of insufficient evidence
  • Participation in money laundering was coerced and not voluntary

Instilling doubt in the prosecutor’s case makes proving the case much more difficult to sustain the charges. Our skilled criminal defense team understands this and works toward reducing the charges or dropping them altogether.

Contact Us Today

If you’ve been accused of money laundering, your freedom, your livelihood, and your reputation are at stake. You cannot handle charges of money laundering on your own. Schedule a virtual or in-person meeting with us today.

The criminal defense team at Farkas & Crowley is well-versed in federal money laundering cases. They offer vital guidance, develop strong defenses, and defend you aggressively with the skill and experience to achieve a favorable outcome.

To find out more about money laundering violations and penalties, or if you have any questions concerning laws surrounding money laundering, contact Farkas and Crowley P.A. today. We’re available 24/7 to discuss your case.

Accounting and Finance Law Concept discussing Money Laundering

Looking for a criminal law firm? Farkas & Crowley, P.A. are the attorneys for you. They are extremely knowledgeable of the law and go the extra mile for their clients. Their expertise and impeccable work ethic are hard to beat. Available 24/7. Highly recommended.

-Marla Newman

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Farkas & Crowley, PA

Criminal Defense & Family Law Lawyers