Los Angeles Money Laundering Defense Lawyers
Money laundering serves a number of criminal purposes, from helping illegal drug money become legitimate to financing international weapons rings. That’s why it’s taken so seriously by both investigators and in sentencing. It’s also all too possible for people to be unknowingly swept up money laundering’s complex web. A money laundering defense lawyer becomes necessary to secure your freedom and your reputation.
Get experienced legal counsel with a Los Angeles-area money laundering defense attorney from this office. Call (818) 918-5838 or contact us online today.
What Money Laundering Is & How It Works
Money laundering is a process where money that was obtained illegally is made to appear clean. The money is metaphorically run through the laundry, thus giving this crime its name. Money laundering operates on three different levels.
It starts with placement. The money comes out from the criminal underworld and is put into the legitimate financial system. Bank deposits or investments are common means of doing this.
Then the money is layered. It has to be shuffled around to different people. Why? A drug dealer who simply deposits thousands into a bank account, might be asked to account where that money came from. The layering process is designed to create distance between the money and its original source.
Of course, the hypothetical drug dealer still wants their money back. The final step of the process is integration, wherein the money returns to its original source. It’s now “clean” , able to be accounted for with legally acceptable reasons.
All of this is complex and requires detailed forensic investigation to get the bottom of. Some very simplified examples of how money laundering might works includes the following:
- A shell corporation is set up. This is a business that has the legal architecture of a business, but none of the physical operations. Money can be moved in and out of it. Shell corporations may be set up abroad in countries where security requirements are much lower than in the United States.
- Banks are required to report deposits of $10,000 or larger to financial regulators. Money laundering placement might begin by depositing an amount a little less than $10K, enough to go under the radar, but large enough to allow the layering process to begin. The emergence of the cryptocurrency market has given money launderers a new arena to work with in transferring money around before bringing it home for integration .
- A real estate agent might price a home lower than its market value. It’s sold to a money launderer who buys with illegally obtained money, then turns around and sells it at the price the market will truly bear. The profit obtained on the house flip has been effectively laundered .
Penalties for Money Laundering
The California penal code allows for money laundering to be punished by anywhere from 1-3 years in prison. Fines can go as high as $250,000 or twice the amount of money laundered, whichever is greater.
The 1986 Money Laundering Control Act also brought the federal government into money laundering sentencing. Federal guidelines allow for prison sentences to go as high as 20 years and the fines to be the greater of $500,000 or twice the amount laundered.
Furthermore, these sentencing guidelines are only for money laundering itself. Keep in mind, the very need for laundered money presumes the commission of a crime. A person convicted of money laundering may also be an accomplice to drug crimes, weapons trafficking or whatever the original crime was.
In other words, as bad as a money laundering conviction might be, it could be just the start of a defendant’s troubles. It necessitates a vigorous defense.
The layering process of money laundering may necessarily involve a lot of people who are unaware they are a part of a money laundering scheme. The real estate agent that sells a home below market value might think they’re just acting on the best interests of their client, who simply wants to get the house sold quickly. It’s only later that the real estate agent learns that both the buyer and seller were part of a criminal enterprise.
A lack of intent can be an effective defense against money laundering charges. What’s more, it’s up to the prosecution to prove that the hypothetical real estate agent knew what they were involved in. That proof must convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. It’s the job of the defense attorney to ensure that all jurors understand that it could just as easily be them sitting in the real estate agent’s unwitting shoes .
Duress is a viable defense against money laundering charges. Perhaps the real estate agent was aware of what they were doing ,but only did so because the buyer or seller threatened them or their family. In this case, the defense must prove the duress existed, that a reasonable person would have presumed the threatened harm was real and that this harm outweighed that which was done by the money laundering.
Identity theft is another way that money laundering happens. A person can have their Social Security number or other identifying information used to bring them into a money laundering scheme of which they’re not remotely aware. A defense lawyer and their research team need to track the paper trail and prove that the accused person is actually a victim of identity theft.
This is the big one. Everyone has the right to have a case against them proven beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecution has a societal responsibility under the criminal justice system to do just that. It’s the defense attorney’s job in each and every case to tenaciously force the prosecutor to meet that burden and to challenge them every step of the way.
Shevin Law Group has fought on behalf of our clients for nearly thirty years. We know how to challenge evidence. We know what questions to ask. We know how to make a case before a jury. If you're facing money laundering charges, that’s the kind of experience, knowledge, and tenacity that you need in your corner.
Call us today at (818) 918-5838 or contact us online to set up an initial consultation.
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