Los Angeles Money Laundering Defense Lawyer
Have you been arrested on suspicion of money laundering in Los Angeles, CA? Contact The Rodriguez Law Group for immediate assistance with your defense. Money laundering charges are serious and a conviction can turn your world upside down.
How Our Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyers Can Help if You Have Been Charged With Money Laundering
Although money laundering is an example of a non-violent white-collar crime, you should not assume the penalties are not significant. A prison term for federal money laundering can be a longer-term than the crime that generated the illegally earned money. You must take a white-collar criminal charge seriously, as your future is at stake. Anyone facing federal money laundering charges will benefit from a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney with experience in federal courts.
That’s why The Rodriguez Law Group should be your first call after you are placed under arrest for money laundering in Los Angeles County. Led by a former prosecutor, our law firm has the experience, insight, and resources that you’ll need as you fight these serious allegations. When you turn to us for help, we’ll put the full force and weight of our law firm behind your defense.
- We’ll conduct an independent investigation into the alleged money laundering scheme
- We’ll gather evidence, speak with witnesses and interested parties, and begin to identify the best defenses for your particular situation
- We’ll determine if your rights have been violated in any way
- We’ll prepare a strong defense that not only casts doubt on your guilt but also undermines the government’s case against you
- We’ll have our highly-respected attorneys defend you in open court before a jury of your peers, if necessary
You do not need to wait for a charge to be brought against you to start your defense case. If you have been contacted by federal investigators and know that an investigation is pending, contact the Los Angeles federal criminal defense lawyers at The Rodriguez Law Group.
You may be able to take certain steps to prevent an indictment and potential freezing of your assets, even if you are not sure if you are being contacted as a suspect or witness.
Overview of Money Laundering Crimes in the United States
Money laundering is the process of “cleaning up” illegally earned money into legitimate capital. Any alleged criminal activity that results in financial gain can result in federal investigations, accusations, and the serious charge of money laundering.
If you are charged with the federal crime of money laundering, your charges may be under:
- 18 U.S. Code § 1956. Laundering of monetary instruments
- 18 U.S. Code § 1957. Engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity.
Additionally, money laundering is a state crime under California Health & Safety Code 11370.9 (specifically relating to money laundering related to drug crimes) or California Penal Code 186.10 PC. If convicted for money laundering, you may have to forfeit assets, pay hefty fines, and face a lengthy prison sentence.
What is Money Laundering?
In the simplest terms, money laundering is taking cash gained from illegal activities and making it look like it was gained through legal activities.
When money is laundered, the predicate crime is the actual crime or “specified unlawful activity” that generated the tainted money to be laundered. It could be drug trafficking, theft or robbery, a car accident insurance fraud ring, or a mortgage fraud ring.
A “front” business is often used to conceal funds – a cash-only dry cleaning business is an example, as there is no inventory, and the amount of income put “on the books” cannot be proven. Laundered money may be co-mingled with legitimate income from the front business. The front, portrayed on the books as a “successful” cash business, can be used to justify investments or loans.
Completion of a transaction is not required. If you attempt to engage in money laundering, you can be charged.
18 U.S.C. §1956: Laundering Of Monetary Instruments
The United States criminal money laundering with the passage of the Money Laundering Control Act of 1986, which made it illegal to conduct financial transactions with proceeds generated by drug trafficking, embezzlement, Medicare fraud, and other crimes. A “financial transaction” is loosely and broadly defined, and doesn’t need to involve a bank or business.
Money laundering traditionally has three distinct and sequential elements:
- Placement: The placement stage is the initial entry of the tainted money. This could be:
- Paying bills/loans: Paying real bills like utilities or rent, fake loans, or dummy invoices with illegal proceeds
- Gambling: Exchanging tainted money for gambling chips or sports wagers, and then obtaining a cashier’s check
- Currency exchange: Exchanging tainted money for foreign currency
- Blending: Integrating tainted funds with legitimate funds by “spending” it through a front business, such as the dry-cleaning example.
- Layering: The layering or structuring stage is the process of making the “trace” of illegal money as difficult to detect as possible. In the gambling example, once you trade in your chips and get a cashier’s check, you are then depositing “gambling proceeds” in your account, and not illegally acquired money. Future layering could be moving funds between banks, financial institutions, and to and from offshore bank accounts. It could also be buying and selling real estate, or buying and reselling high-value goods like artwork or jewelry.
- Integration: The final stage of the money laundering process involves returning the money to the source after it has been moved around and used in various transactions.
Intent is a critical element of this crime. The jury instructions for 18 U.S.C. §1956 states that prosecution must prove you had the intent to:
- promote the carrying on of specified unlawful activity;
- conceal or disguise the nature, location, source, ownership, or control of property believed to be the proceeds of specified unlawful activity; or
- avoid a transaction reporting requirement under State or Federal law.
The defendant must have acted with one of the following four specific intents or knowledge:
- Intent to promote the carrying on of specified unlawful activity;
- Intent to engage in tax evasion or tax fraud;
- The knowledge that the transaction was designed to conceal or disguise the nature, location, source, ownership or control of proceeds of the specified unlawful activity; or
- The knowledge that the transaction was designed to avoid a transaction reporting requirement under State or Federal law.
The specific intent can be challenging to prove, especially if none of the transactions conceal the source of money.
Penalties for 18 U.S.C. §1956
Each separate monetary transaction is a separate offense. So withdrawing money, transferring money to another account, purchasing a car or piece of art, etc., can each be charged as a separate count.
A conviction of 18 U.S.C. §1956 can result in a sentence of up to 20 years in prison. If convicted of money laundering in federal court, you could be ordered to pay twice the value of the money laundered (up to $500,000).
Possible Defenses to 18 U.S.C. §1956
Because money laundering charges go hand-in-hand with other charges, it is important that defenses be established based on all of the charges you are facing. Possible defenses could include:
- Absence of Intent: If you were an accountant, banker, or salesperson who was unaware that money obtained was illegal, the intent element would not be met. The prosecution will have the burden of proving the necessary intent element.
- Duress: If you believed that you would be subject to harm if you did not participate in the crime, you may have a good duress defense.
- Monetary transactions were legitimate transactions: If a transaction or business was legitimate, you can not be held liable for money laundering, although you could still possibly be prosecuted for the predicate crime, such as robbing a convenience store or participating in a fraud ring. The prosecution will have the burden to provide sufficient evidence to prosecute.
The best way to determine the probability of any defense strategy is to speak with a knowledgeable federal criminal defense lawyer. An attorney well-versed in federal criminal court procedure is essential in a money laundering case. The Rodriguez Law Group can help you build your case and do everything possible to avoid a money laundering conviction.
18 U.S. Code §1957: Engaging In Monetary Transactions In Property Derived From Specified Unlawful Activity
18 U.S. Code §1957 carries no intent requirement, but rather, the derived property value must be greater than $10,000, and a financial institution must be involved in the transaction. Gambling or a private party cash purchase would not meet the requirements.
Because a bank is a necessary element, wire fraud and mail fraud are often coupled with an 18 U.S. Code §1957 allegation.
The theoretical purpose of this statute is to keep tainted money out of the US banking system. This statute makes it a crime to simply deposit funds totaling more than $10,000 that were obtained from a crime. The government uses this charge to acquire excessive asset forfeitures.
Penalties for 18 U.S.C. §1957
A conviction of 18 U.S.C. §1957 can result in a sentence of up to 10 years in prison. If convicted of 18 U.S.C. §1957, you could be ordered to pay twice the value of the money laundered (up to $250,000).
Possible Defenses to 18 U.S.C. §1957
The most common defense to this charge would be a lack of knowledge. If the defendant was not aware that the money was obtained in an illegal manner, they could not be convicted. The burden of proof will be on the prosecution to show that the defendant knew the funds came from unlawful activity (and that the funds were, in fact, derived from a specified unlawful activity.)
Related Charges to Money Laundering in LA
If you are under investigation for money laundering, you may also face charges for these racketeering and money laundering predicate offenses:
- 18 U.S.C. §1001: Making False Statements
- 18 U.S.C. §1341: Mail Fraud
- 18 U.S.C. §1341: Fictitious Name or Address
- 18 U.S.C. §1343: Wire Fraud
- 18 U.S.C. §1347: Health Care Fraud
If money is transferred to banks or individuals across state lines or using electronic devices (i.e., an online banking app), you may be charged with wire fraud. The government has vast resources, and the rules of procedure in a RICO prosecution allow the government to freeze the defendant’s assets before the case even goes to trial.
Get a Free Case Evaluation With a Federal Crimes Attorney in Los Angeles
If you are under investigation for or have been charged with money laundering, contact a Los Angeles federal money laundering lawyer at The Rodriguez Law Group to discuss your rights and options. We are available seven days a week to take your call and answer your questions.