Money Laundering Defense
Attorney in West Palm Beach
Facing white collar crime charges?
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Money laundering describes exactly what it sounds like. The process takes “dirty” money collected from illegal operations and cleanses it of its origins. The resulting money should appear to be from legitimate sources. People accused of money laundering frequently face numerous other criminal charges related to the fraud, embezzlement, or racketeering that produced the illegitimate proceeds in the first place. However, some people get caught up in money laundering investigations because they were being used to clean money without participating in the other crimes. Either way, money laundering charges represent a serious situation for anyone in West Palm Beach, Florida. People under investigation or arrest need guidance from a federal money laundering defense lawyer adept at analyzing financial crimes.
Anatomy of the money laundering process
A traditional form of money laundering relies on a cash-based business known commonly as a “front.” Someone injects unlawful money into the cash revenue of a business, like a restaurant or night club. The business then reports all cash as legitimate revenue.
Beyond this basic approach, money laundering methods are only limited by the financial creativity of those who do it. Regardless of the method, money laundering follows this three-step process:
- Placement: Money is put into the financial system. This can be accomplished by depositing cash in the name of a seemingly legitimate business into a bank account. Another approach is to transport the money to a location with lax oversight of financial transactions, such as a foreign country. Additionally, the money may be spent on credit card bills, loans, or gambling.
- Layering: During the middle stage of money laundering, a person works to obscure the origins of the money and have the end results look legitimate. Investments overseas, various currency exchange transactions, or disbursement into multiple small transactions that do not raise regularly red flags are common ways for erasing where cash came from.
- Integration: In this final step, a person attempts to reclaim the money and have it appear that its origins were above the table the whole time. Someone will use the proceeds of a foreign investment, sale of commodities, or sale of art to buy real estate or spend as normal income.
Do not say anything that might incriminate you. Speak with an attorney first.
Money launderers target legitimate businesses
The possibility exists that lawful operators of legitimate businesses may be lured into money laundering schemes. Anyone whose business comes under investigation has an interest in consulting a federal money laundering attorney even if innocent. Federal investigations of financial crimes are far ranging in their scope. They can entangle people who had no knowledge of illegal activity and simply thought they were doing normal business with someone.
People who run businesses should watch out for suspicious activity that could drag them into a federal criminal probe. Tactics used by money launderers against lawful businesses include:
Shell companies or trusts
Money launderers frequently set up fake businesses for the purpose of moving money. When approached by new customers, businesses should perform due diligence. A little bit of digging could reveal a red flag about the legitimacy of the customer and help a business avoid dealing with an illegal entity.
This technique sends money on a circular journey. Money may be invested in a front company in a country that is not vigilant against money laundering. This front then makes a domestic investment. Another circular methods involves paying a law firm or accountancy a retainer and then canceling the contract. The refund is then treated as clean money.
Luxury commodities, like gold and jewels, have high value and are easy to transport. They are sold for cash out of the country. These transactions may include forged documentation to give the appearance of legality.
Real estate investing
The large amounts of money within real estate transactions create opportunities to launder money. A shell company or other third party is used to hide the true source of the cash for a real estate purchase. Rental properties can launder money too when the tenant pays a very inflated rent.
A criminal organization could hack into a business’s email system and use the business to execute various transactions and fund transfers.
Exploitation of online payment systems – A legitimate business collects payments online for a customer and disburses funds. This washes the money because the illegal operator disguises the sale of illegal goods or services as legal transactions at a normal business.
Money laundering defense
A federal criminal defense attorney may challenge money laundering charges by showing that the accused did not know the funds were of illegal origin. Conviction for money laundering requires that the defendant actually knew that the money was derived from a felony.
Evidence might also be vulnerable if it does not clearly connect the accused to acts related to the money laundering transaction. Although defendants have the best chance of avoiding conviction if they were innocent cogs in a bigger machine, a person may avoid conviction if evidence cannot overcome reasonable doubts.
Money laundering fines and prison time
Conviction for this federal offense usually imposes fines and prison time. Congress has authorized fines up to $500,000. As for prison time, sentencing guidelines allow a judge to send someone to prison for up to 20 years.
How money laundering integrates with other federal crimes
Money laundering occurs when criminals need to shift their proceeds into the normal financial system. For this reason, defendants often face money laundering charges in addition to other federal criminal charges. For example, the local news reported in February 2022 about the arrest of a man in West Palm Beach. Money laundering was only one item on a long list of criminal charges. He was part of a group that ran a boiler room overseas that pushed investments in shell companies to defraud people duped into buying the bogus investments. Federal authorities charged him with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and securities fraud as well as money laundering.
Money laundering defense lawyer serving West Palm Beach
Financial regulations and business transactions are complicated. An individual who runs afoul of the rules could face years in prison. A strong defense will rely on forcing the criminal justice system to show guilt beyond a reasonable doubt or dismiss charges. If you have been arrested or worry that arrest is possible, Joffe Law, P.A. is your source for confidential advice and representation in court. Do not act without guidance from a lawyer who understands federal criminal cases. Contact our office immediately.