The crime of money laundering is one that has connotations of individuals involved in organized crime using a local cash-rich business to clean up money that was obtained by illegal means, but the truth is that charges of money laundering are being brought against individuals and companies based on a wide-range of activities. The charge is based on an allegation that the person used various financial transactions to conceal the identity, origins, or destination of funds which were the proceeds of another criminal act. One of the most effective tools that a federal prosecutor has in bringing this type of case is threatening the accused with asset seizure as the result of a forfeiture charge.
A forfeiture charge enables the prosecutor to go after some or all of a defendant’s assets, which may leave the accused’s family struggling to pay bills and survive while the legal action proceeds forward. These tactics may be used to force a person to accept a plea or provide information about other participants in the alleged money laundering scheme. Seizures also may be used to strip a defendant of the resources necessary to defend himself against the charges. The dedicated and passionate attorneys at Greco Neyland, PC are very familiar with these heavy-handed prosecutorial actions and will battle to keep our clients from being unfairly treated. The broad interpretation of money laundering means that many people who were unaware of the potential for this type of charge find themselves facing prosecution and need the assistance of skilled and tenacious attorneys.
The Legal Aspects of a Money Laundering Charge
Money laundering cases typically involve several steps:
- There is some type of illegal activity that leads to the money that someone wants to launder;
- The money is given to the individual or business that is going to launder it;
- The launderer used a series of financial transactions in order to conceal the nature, identity, ownership, origin, or destination of the illicit funds; and
- The launderer finds a way to return the funds to the person or enterprise that originally generated the money, accomplished in way that obscures the return.
Federal prosecutors may use money laundering charges to go after many different individuals. Doctors who are being investigated for fraudulent billing practices may find themselves at the wrong end of a money laundering and forfeiture charge because they deposited the funds that allegedly arose from the wrongful billing into a bank account, thereby “laundering” the money through the use of a financial transaction. A business that takes cash from an individual or company that may have engaged in criminal activities may be charged with money laundering. In addition, the federal government may go after a company that uses a series of planned transactions to avoid having to submit certain bank documents with the intent of concealing some aspect of the money being deposited. Although there are many actions that can trigger a money laundering charge, there is an element of intent that must be proven.
In ruling on a money laundering case, Cuellar v. United States (06-1456), the United States Supreme Court has ruled that a federal prosecutor must prove that in a case involving the concealment of funds, the accused must have acted in order to obfuscate the nature, location, origination, ownership, or control of the money at issue in the case. This is done through attempting to make it seem that the funds arose out of legal and legitimate business activities. In addition, a person who simply makes money from illegal activities is not guilty of money laundering. There must be an attempt to alter the perception of where the money originated.
The penalties for money laundering vary depending upon the nature of the criminal activities that led to the funds or the activities for which the money is being directed. For example, if the money laundering is being used to conceal criminal proceeds that are being directed towards terrorist activities, then a person may face a federal prison term or 35 years, or longer.
Greco Neyland, PC Advocates Fiercely When a Client Faces Money Laundering Charges
Federal prosecutors often view money laundering charges as the means of forcing individuals to make decisions that they otherwise would not make, especially when faced with forfeiture charges and the threat of asset seizure. At Greco Neyland, PC, we understand the motivation behind these tactics and will fight against the prosecutor’s efforts without fearing the reaction of the prosecution. We have a Manhattan office for the convenience of our clients, and we have resources available no matter where in the New York City area that the case is filed. Call us at (212) 951-1300 to schedule a free initial consultation.
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