Money Laundering Defense Lawyer in Naples
Our federal defense attorneys proudly defend Naples, Florida
When illegal activities produce profits, the recipients of those gains need a way to cleanse their money of its unlawful origins and make it appear to be legitimate income. The legal term for this process is money laundering. Although people might only associate money laundering with drug dealers, it also may occur alongside white collar crimes like embezzlement, bribery and fraud. Money laundering frequently involves multiple layers of financial transactions, and individuals or business owners suspected of participating in money laundering should consult a Naples money laundering attorney.
The money laundering process
The most straightforward method for laundering illegally obtained money involves using a cash-based business called a front. Restaurants, nightclubs, hair salons, and other businesses in Naples, Florida, that collect cash from customers are typical kinds of fronts. The business owner makes false records about fictitious cash sales so that it appears that the cash came in as legal revenue.
Beyond this basic method, money laundering is attempted by various and creative means. The origin of the funds may be obscured by:
- making many small deposits across multiple bank accounts to avoid automatic reporting by financial institutions
- physically carrying cash to other countries with lax financial monitoring
- using wire transfers to send money out of the country
- buying gems or precious metals for easier transport to different regions
- buying real estate
- masking money as the proceeds of gambling at casinos
- setting up shell companies or inactive companies to perform complex chains of financial transactions
Although money laundering takes many forms, the process goes through three stages, which are:
- layering or structuring
Placement refers to putting the money into the financial system. Organizations or individuals achieve placement through any of the methods described above, like transporting money across borders or depositing it alongside the proceeds of a front business.
Layering or structuring complicates the picture with one or more transactions in an attempt to erase the origin of the funds. The money may be invested in foreign markets or businesses. Sometimes this activity occurs within gray areas created by legal loopholes.
Integration describes the return of money to the person who intended to launder it. The recipient will appear to be collecting returns on legal investments. Once the money comes back into its owner’s possession, that person may then choose to spend it or reinvest it openly.
Do not say anything that might incriminate you. Speak with an attorney first.
A real-world money laundering example
In 2018, a business man admitted guilt to charges of wire fraud and money laundering. The Naples News reported that he had been spending his fraudulent proceeds on a luxury lifestyle, which appeared to include a $785,000 home in Collier County. According to federal prosecutors, his payroll processing business had underreported wages to the state while collecting workers’ compensation premiums from clients that were based on full wages.
Development of money laundering laws
People have shown great creativity in laundering money, and the federal government has produced a long list of laws meant to label these activities as crimes. Criminal laws specifically aimed at money laundering originated during the effort to control organized crime. In the 1970s, the federal government introduced the Bank Secrecy Act that directed financial institutions to report suspicious transactions to the U.S. Department of Treasury. Reporting of cash transactions above certain thresholds was mandated. Banks were also required to inform the government when transactions appeared to be purposefully skirting the reporting thresholds.
The Money Laundering Control Act of 1986 further defined the types of criminal proceeds that could not legally enter into the financial system. Penalties became steeper with the passage of the Annunzio-Wylie Anti-Money Laundering Act of 1992. Procedures for examining financial transactions gained further clarification in the Money Laundering Suppression Act of 1994 and Money Laundering and Financial Crimes Strategy Act of 1998.
The U.S.A. Patriot Act increased scrutiny of financial transactions to combat the financial networks of terrorists. The law imposed liability on financial institutions that ignored money laundering activity and increased identification requirements for account holders.
Federal crimes carry strong penalties, and money laundering is no exception. People convicted of knowingly making transactions with illegal money or property can go to prison for up to 10 years. For those convicted of promoting criminal activity and the concealment of dirty money, sentences can extend to 20 years in prison.
Money laundering prosecution and defense
To secure a conviction for money laundering, a prosecutor needs evidence that shows:
- a defendant understood the money to be the proceeds of a felony.
- a defendant participated in some way in a financial transaction involving criminally obtained money
- a defendant intended the transaction to circumvent the law in some way.
Each of these elements could provide an opportunity to defend an accused individual. A person might challenge accusations with evidence showing the money actually came from legal sources.
At times, people might be able to argue that they did not know the money came from illegal activity. Someone might have been an unwitting participate in a series of financial transactions while under the impression that the money involved was legitimate. Because criminals may try to shift their guilt onto other parties, legal advice from a federal criminal defense lawyer is extremely important for anyone entangled in a money laundering investigation.
Retain a Naples financial crimes lawyer
The prospect of federal prison makes legal advice essential for anyone who suspects that he or she has become involved in an illegal financial transaction. Joffe Law, P.A. has the resources to examine complex financial records and establish defense strategies that could deflect or mitigate prosecution. The assistance of a lawyer as early in an investigation as possible may improve the outcome for someone facing serious federal charges.