Money Laundering – 18 U.S.C. §§ 1956, 1957

Basic Law of Money Laundering Offenses

Federal money laundering offenses are codified at 18 U.S.C. §§ 1956 and 1957. The former prohibits financial transactions and the transmission or transportation of funds derived from criminal activity, or undertaken for the purpose of evading taxes or avoiding financial reporting requirements. The latter prohibits monetary transactions involving criminally derived money or property with a value greater than $10,000.

Federal government agents are expressly authorized to use funds that are not actually the proceeds of a crime to engage in sting operations. An individual who then engages in financial transactions using these funds, with an illegal purpose such as avoiding reporting requirements or concealing the source of the funds, is guilty of money laundering.

Legal Requirements And Potential Defenses

Money laundering charges are highly technical in nature, and an effective defense to such charges requires a clear understanding of both the governing law and the prosecution’s theory of the crime.

For example, to obtain a conviction for money laundering, the government must prove that the accused person had a certain level of knowledge and intent to commit the crime. That is, simply engaging in a financial transaction or transporting funds – even if those funds happen to be the proceeds of a crime – is not enough for a conviction. Furthermore, the government has to prove that the funds came from a list of specified crimes – not all criminal activity qualifies. The government also must show that the financial transaction has to effect interstate commerce; not all financial transactions meet this requirement.  Representation by knowledgeable white collar crime attorney with experience defending money laundering charges is key to an effective defense.

Money Laundering Penalties And The Federal Sentencing Guidelines

Given the significant penalties these charges carry, you should consult a white collar crime attorney if you are under investigation, have been charged, or are facing sentencing for a money laundering offense.

18 U.S.C. § 1956 money laundering offenses carry a potential maximum penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment and significant fines. 18 U.S.C. § 1957 offenses carry a penalty of up to 10 years, also with significant potential fines.

As a starting point, courts will calculate the recommended sentence by looking at the federal sentencing guidelines. Like most other financial crimes, the sentencing calculation for money laundering offenses is highly technical and requires thorough knowledge of the federal sentencing guidelines. The specific laws and provisions under which an individual is convicted or pleads guilty will have an impact on the guidelines sentencing range. The amount of money or the value of the property involved will also have a significant impact on the guidelines range. For all of these reasons, it is important to hire a federal criminal lawyer who can advocate for you effectively at sentencing and minimize your exposure to prison time and significant fines.

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