Money Laundering Defense Attorney
in Fort Myers
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The object of most white-collar crimes is for the perpetrator to obtain a financial benefit. For crime rings, criminal activity doesn’t end when the fraudsters get the money. Many criminal organizations seek to “legitimize” the proceeds of their illegal activity through a process that is known as money laundering. The money laundering process involves several stages. At some points, criminal organizations may even seek to transfer money to individuals who are otherwise uninvolved with the scheme. Innocent people may find themselves under investigation for criminal activity of which they had no knowledge. Individuals and businesses who have been contacted by the FBI or another law enforcement agency in relation to a money laundering investigation should immediately speak with a money laundering defense lawyer in Fort Myers.
Why the money laundering process is utilized
Most fraudsters want to eventually enjoy the convenience of keeping money in a bank account or at another financial institution. Banks and other financial institutions are required to comply with federal law by reporting suspicious activities that may suggest an account holder is engaging in money laundering. Therefore, fraudsters subject their illegal proceeds to a multi-step process to obscure the source of the money and to give it the appearance of having come from a legitimate source before depositing the money into an account at a financial institution.
Stages of money laundering
In real-world scenarios, money laundering can take place in many different ways over the course of several steps. Because the end goal is to obscure the source of the money, fraudsters do not always follow the same template. Nevertheless, the process can generally be summarized into three major stages. The following are general stages through which “dirty” money progresses before fraudsters deposit the money into a bank account for ease of management and convenient access.
During the first stage of the money laundering process, fraudsters inject illegal proceeds into the legitimate financial system. There are several ways dirty money can be introduced back into the financial system. Some common strategies are:
- smurfing or breaking large sums into smaller amounts to purchase monetary instruments or deposit into separate accounts
- mixing criminal proceeds with legitimate business revenue
- disguising the money’s owner through trusts, offshore companies, and foreign bank accounts
- using the money to pay expenses
This stage is often referred to as the Placement stage because criminals use various tactics to place the proceeds of criminal activity into the financial system. Placement tactics do not create enough separation between the money and the original owner. Criminals proceed to the next stage of money laundering to further obscure the money’s origins.
Do not say anything that might incriminate you. Speak with an attorney first.
The second stage includes a web of transactions that are intended to confuse anyone who is looking to trace the money back to its original source. Criminal organizations often combine standard transactions with fraudulent bookkeeping to further confuse investigators who may be looking into the series of transactions. Strategies implemented in the layering phase often include:
- buying and selling real estate
- moving smaller portions of the money through bank accounts around the globe
- disguising transactions as payments for goods or services
- giving the money as a “personal loan” to a business that is working with the criminal organization
Money launderers have increasingly used cryptocurrency as a tool in each stage of the laundering process. Although crypto can be used at any point, dirty money is most often used to purchase cryptocurrency during the layering phase. Criminal organizations most often implement cryptocurrency into the following layering tactics:
- chain-hopping-converting one cryptocurrency to another and moving the money to a different blockchain
- mixing (also known as tumbling)-blending transactions across several exchanges
- cycling-depositing traditional currency into a cryptocurrency exchange by using one bank account then converting the cryptocurrency back to traditional currency and transferring the funds to a different bank account
People can launder money by sending it through as many different types of transactions as they see fit. Once the money has been laundered to the criminal’s satisfaction, he or she can move the money to the final money laundering stage, commonly referred to as Integration. During the final stage, the criminal moves the money back into the legitimate economy. The money can then be deposited into a bank account or used to buy goods and services without readily attracting the attention of law enforcement or the IRS and state tax enforcement agencies. At this point, criminals often invest freshly-laundered money in real estate, big-ticket art pieces, luxury assets, and business ventures.
When criminals opt to invest laundered money into business ventures, the businesses are often also illegitimate. These businesses employ fake employees who are paid in “cash” as a means of taking money out back out of the venture. The business may also make loans to directors and shareholders who are never really intended to repay the money. The money may also be used to pay “shareholders” of the illegitimate company.
Other ways criminal organizations launder money
Criminal charges for money laundering
Whether someone approached you and asked you to transport cash or assets or if a friend or if a friend or family member has asked you to open a joint financial account for suspicious reasons, unsuspecting people can easily become involved in a money laundering scheme. Before speaking to law enforcement, contact a Fort Myers money laundering defense attorney to learn more about your legal rights before taking the next step. A federal criminal attorney can protect you from possibly incriminating yourself and provide legal counsel and representation if you are under investigation or facing criminal charges.