Money laundering is the illegal process by which the ownership and control of money derived from an unlawful activity or source is disguised so that it appears to come from legitimate sources. The process typically involves investing, receiving, financing, and expending funds obtained through criminal activity.
Being charged with the offense of money laundering can carry severe penalties in Illinois. You should have a white-collar crime lawyer on your side who has the legal skills and experience to provide a compelling defense for getting your charges reduced or dropped.
What Is Money Laundering?
Money laundering is a white-collar crime involving the transfer of illegally acquired property or money. It might also involve money which may have been legally obtained, but classified as unlawful because of tax evasion.
Generally, money laundering is associated with criminals. It may come as a shock to learn that many white-collar crimes, including money laundering, are sometimes committed by money transfer agents and bankers.
Unfortunately, many of these agents get involved in tax fraud, money laundering, and other criminal charges unsuspectingly. Money laundering falls under the purview of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and is a violation of the federal laws 18 U.S.C. §1956 and 18 U.S.C. §1957. These are enforceable by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), which makes it necessary to work with a tough criminal defense lawyer that has the necessary skill set to get your charges reduced or dropped.
As per the FBI, money laundering refers to the process by which someone disguises or conceals their monetary proceeds so that it appears to have come legitimately. Guilty parties usually hide accumulated wealth to avoid prosecution, taxes, and the consequences of reporting. It allows them to increase their profits illegally and perhaps enhance their ability to invest in other unlawful activities. In short, laundering money is putting dirty money through a legitimate business and having it come out clean.
It’s critical for people involved in international money transfers with the foreign financial institution to employ due diligence measures. Money laundering can be complicated and many bankers fail to perform due diligence practices because of negligence instead of an intent to perpetrate a crime. With that said, skilled criminal defense lawyers will never base their defense on negligence and lack of intent since it can easily backfire in front of state and federal prosecutors.
In Illinois, 720 ILCS 5/29-B covers money laundering charges. As per the law, you can be accused of money laundering if you do any of the following:
- Engage in a financial transaction where the money is obtained through an unlawful activity, or try to conduct a financial transaction involving the criminally derived property.
- Intend to carry out illegal activity, such as embezzlement, bank fraud, wire fraud, healthcare fraud, insurance fraud, credit card fraud, or drug dealing, among others, which provides the criminally derived property.
- Attempt to disguise or conceal the nature, source, location, ownership, or control of the illegally obtained property.
- Attempt to avoid a transaction reporting requirement as set up by Illinois state law.
- You can be charged with money laundering and other white-collar criminal charges if you transfer, transport, or transmit a monetary instrument:
- With the intent to perform an illegal activity from where the unlawful property is obtained.
- With the knowledge that the financial transaction is designed to disguise or conceal the transaction from state law reporting requirements.
Common Money Laundering Schemes
These are a few commonly used money laundering schemes in IL Chicago:
Smurfing or Structuring
This happens when a large amount of money is split up into smaller chunks to avoid making the transaction look suspicious. All financial institutions are required to report any transaction over $10,000. The perpetrator enlists the help of friends, relatives, and associates to deposit smaller amounts and has the money wired to their own account.
This type of money laundering involves sending funds to different individuals, accounts, shell companies, and countries that have low regulatory enforcement. The money is then transferred back to the owner under the veneer of being legitimate. Investigators and analysts can find it difficult to trace the money back to its original source.
With the development of virtual currencies, such as Bitcoin, it has become easier for people to launder criminal proceeds. Digital currency is among the latest money laundering schemes leaving financial institutions and regulators trying to keep up.
Trade-Based Money Laundering
This money laundering scheme relies on the confusion surrounding international law. The perpetrator may manipulate the value of goods and invoices to move around funds and give them the appearance of legitimacy. Criminals find it easier to evade standard anti-money laundering (AML) checks and internal investigations by involving different businesses and several countries.
Online gambling can move a lot of cash, making it the natural place for illegal money to be laundered. It can be easy to layer funds at an online casino. This scheme requires at least two accomplices – one loses on purpose at the digital gambling table and quietly transfers money to the other.
Cash can be made to appear legitimate by reselling assets. Money launders are known to use cash for purchasing big-ticket items, and quickly resell them for money in their bank accounts. Luxury cars, real estate, and other similar items are popular placements for this purpose.
Elements of a Money Laundering Case
There are three legal elements that need to be present if you are charged with money laundering:
- You attempted to complete a financial transaction by way of making a pledge, loan, gift, or account transfer, paying a bill, depositing money into an account, purchasing something, exchanging currency, dealing in stocks, using a safety deposit box, or making any other monetary transaction.
- You should have knowingly used money derived from illegal or criminal activity.
- You should have designed the transaction for concealing money derived from illegal or criminal activity at the time of the transaction.
If you are facing criminal charges of money laundering, you should hire the services of a skilled Chicago criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. They will examine all the facts surrounding your case, prepare strong evidence in your favor, and argue aggressively in court to show the presence of reasonable doubt against your charges. An experienced lawyer will know how to navigate the criminal justice system and get you the outcome you desire.
The Importance of Proving Intent in a Money Laundering Charge
The prosecutor needs to show that the accused made the financial transaction with the intent to conceal illegal money for the allegations to hold. This means they have the burden of proving that the alleged offender intentionally or knowingly designed the financial transaction to hide money obtained through criminal activity.
Money laundering falls under the purview of a specific intent crime, which considers the state of mind at the time of committing the crime. You cannot be charged with money laundering if you accidentally committed an unlawful act. You should also have additional objective or subjective intent.
Specific intent crimes are described using the terms – purposely, knowingly, intentionally, or willfully. You cannot be convicted of a specific intent crime if the defense attorney proves that the act was not performed with the required intent.
The fact that money laundering requires showing the presence of mens rea makes it necessary to work with seasoned white-collar trial lawyers.
Penalties for Money Laundering in Illinois
Money laundering convictions can involve serious fines and incarcerations. There are harsher penalties for higher-value crimes. You can have your property, such as boats, vehicles, homes, bank accounts, jewelry, and other valuable assets, seized. You may also be ordered by the court to pay restitution. This means that it’s not just you that will be impacted by a conviction – your family members may not be able to keep their possessions either.
Money laundering is essentially treated by the federal government as a felony. You may be looking at 2–15 years in prison and a fine of $25,000, depending on the value of the money laundered and the classification of the felony. These are the potential penalties associated with money laundering:
- Class 3 felony: Value of funds should be up to $10,000. It carries a prison sentence of 2–5 years.
- Class 2 felony: Value of funds should be between $10,000 and $100,000. It carries a prison sentence of 3–7 years.
- Class 1 felony: Value of funds should be between $100,000 and $500,000. It carries a prison sentence of 4–15 years. If the value of funds laundered is more than $500,000, it can result in a prison sentence of 4–15 years without probation.
Penalties for white-collar crime are not lenient. This makes it important to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Chicago, IL that can help prepare a solid defense and have your charges reduced or dropped.
Possible Defenses Against Money Laundering Charges
A top-rated white-collar crime attorney will understand your particular situation and employ the right defense for getting your money laundering charges dropped. Common defenses include:
- Duress: Your attorney will prove that you were threatened with physical harm or harm to a family member that compelled you to commit the unlawful act.
- Intent: Under criminal law, money laundering is a specific intent crime. Your attorney will argue that you made an honest mistake and never had any intention of using or concealing unlawfully obtained money.
- Insufficient evidence: Money laundering is among the hardest cases to prosecute because the crime cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt if there is insufficient evidence. A strong defense attorney will know how to use the available facts to shed doubt on the case to have the charges reduced or dismissed.
- Mental incapacity: You can prove that you were not mentally competent when the crime was committed through medical evidence. Your attorney will show that you had no understanding of your actions.
Money laundering cases are usually incredibly complex, involving intricate financial details. You need to work with an experienced attorney that has enough knowledge of criminal law, white-collar criminal defense strategies, and the way the Internal Revenue Service operates.
You must avoid a felony conviction if you want to protect your housing, property, income, credit, and professional licensing. Don’t hesitate to reach out to hardened attorneys that are not shy about providing aggressive representation if you believe you are under investigation or if charges have been filed against you.
How a Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help
It takes a strategy-driven money laundering attorney to assess your case and determine an appropriate defense. Your attorney can communicate with the authorities on your behalf if the entire episode is a big misunderstanding. Having an attorney by your side will give you the confidence to safely cooperate with investigators assigned to the case without damaging your public image or incriminating yourself.
These are a few other reasons to speak to an attorney immediately if you get arrested on money laundering charges:
- Your attorney will work on your behalf to gather the necessary documents and evidence to prove your innocence.
- A seasoned attorney with experience in handling federal crimes will know how prosecutors operate and will try to negotiate to get your charges reduced.
- Your attorney will try to protect your assets and business from getting seized by the courts.
You are innocent until proven guilty, and you have the right to an attorney that reviews your individual situation and can develop a solid defense strategy. In most situations, money laundering cases are won on pre-trial preparation by defense attorneys. You need an attorney that can remain one step ahead of the prosecution at all times. This can also help you avoid other additional serious charges.
The formidable team at The Law Office of Purav Bhatt has the necessary experience, resources, and legal knowledge to conduct an investigation and assemble substantial evidence to build and execute a winning defense strategy.
Get a Case Evaluation From Our Seasoned Money Laundering Defense Attorney
At The Law Office of Purav Bhatt, we have one of the best criminal trial lawyers in the country and the necessary resources for defending clients against white-collar crimes, such as money laundering. The legal team is led by attorney Purav Bhatt, a former Cook County prosecutor, who has successfully defended clients charged with laundering millions of dollars. To schedule your confidential consultation, call us at 773-791-9682 or fill out this online contact form.