New York Federal Money Laundering Lawyer
Money laundering is the crime of disguising or concealing the source of unlawfully derived funds and is primarily punished by two federal statutes: 18 U.S.C. §§ 1956 and 1957. The former prohibits the act of removing the taint from the money – a crime punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment; the latter prohibits the depositing or spending of this money in any amount greater than $10,000 – a crime punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment.
In addition to these criminal charges, money laundering allegations are frequently accompanied by charges of tax evasion and fraud, in violation of 26 U.S.C. §§ 7201 and 7206, mail and wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1341 and 1343, and bank fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1344. Working with a New York federal money laundering lawyer could be crucial to preserving your best interests when facing allegations like this.
Defining “Unlawful” Funds Involved in Laundering Charges
Federal law specifies that a prosecutor may only bring money laundering charges for the illicit concealment of money gained from “specified unlawful activity.” Despite the language used, though, “unlawful activity” in this regard is not specific at all, as an extremely broad grouping of criminal offenses may lead to money laundering charges if the proceeds of those offenses are disguised as legitimate in any way.
When most people think of money laundering, they imagine extensive schemes involving fraudulent investments, bribery, and extortion. However, any attempt to disguise any amount of money gained through any criminal act—from securities fraud down to robbery and drug distribution—could result in prosecution for laundering. A seasoned New York attorney could offer further clarification about how federal prosecutors may justify money laundering charges in different situations.
How Are Federal Money Laundering Charges Usually Prosecuted?
18 U.S.C. § 1956 is the most frequently charged money laundering statute and prohibits four types of activities. These are transactions designed to promote certain specified unlawful activity, conceal the source of unlawfully derived funds, facilitate the structuring of financial transactions to evade bank reporting requirements, and facilitate tax evasion. “Specified unlawful activity” is a term that refers to a long list of crimes delineated in 18 U.S.C. §§ 1956(c)(7) and 1961(1) and includes mail fraud, narcotics distribution, counterfeiting, bribery, obstruction of criminal investigations, and extortion.
First, § 1956(a)(1) punishes those who engage in financial transactions comprised of the proceeds of specified unlawful activities and conducted with the intent to promote such crimes or commit tax fraud, or with the knowledge that the transaction was designed to conceal the source of such funds or to avoid a federal or state transaction reporting requirement.
Second, § 1956(a)(2) punishes the interstate or international transportation or transfer of funds with the intent to promote a specified unlawful activity, or with the knowledge that the purpose of the transaction was to: i) conceal the nature, source or location of any unlawfully derived funds; or ii) avoid a transaction reporting requirement.
Third, § 1956(a)(3) – known as the sting section – punishes those who enter into a transaction believing that the funds at issue derive from some specified unlawful activity and who intend to: i) promote such activity; ii) conceal the proceeds thereof; or iii) avoid a transaction reporting requirement. A conviction under any of these sections is punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment. Therefore, it is important to speak with a local attorney who understands federal money laundering charges and could prepare a solid defense.
Prosecution Under Federal Money Laundering Statutes
Unlike 18 U.S.C. § 1956, which prohibits laundering activities, § 1957 prohibits the depositing or spending of funds derived from specified unlawful activity – even those which make up an otherwise innocent transaction. Specifically, according to 18 U.S.C. § 1957, any individual who, within the United States or its territorial jurisdiction, knowingly engages or attempts to engage in a transaction in or affecting domestic or foreign commerce which involves property derived from specified unlawful activity and valued at greater than $10,000 is punished by up to 10 years in prison. This same conduct may be punished even if it occurred outside of the United States if the defendant is a United States citizen.
Another important way in which 18 U.S.C. §1957 differs from 18 U.S.C. §1956 is that the latter section requires the prosecution to prove intent by the defendant to conceal the origin of money gained through illicit means to obtain a conviction, whereas the former section does not. In other words, a person can still be convicted of a federal money laundering offense under 18 U.S.C. §1957 regardless of whether they intended or tried to conceal where the money came from during the purchase in question.
What are Some Defenses Against Money Laundering Allegations?
To convict a defendant of these crimes under 18 U.S.C. §1956, federal prosecutors must show that the defendant was both aware that their actions constituted money laundering and knowingly performed those actions for the purposes of promoting illegal activity. Accordingly, many successful defense strategies center around proving that a defendant either was not aware that they were laundering illicitly gained funds or that they did not intend to conceal the nature of those funds.
In certain situations, it may be possible to argue that a defendant only engaged in money laundering because they were forced to do so under threat of physical harm. A lawyer in New York could work to customize a defense strategy around the circumstances applicable to a federal money laundering case.
Seek Counsel from a New York Federal Money Laundering Attorney
Contact a New York federal money laundering lawyer to defend you in any prosecution. Our lawyers at the Law Offices of Jeffrey Lichtman have successfully handled countless federal cases, exploiting holes in the prosecution’s evidence to achieve the best possible result for our clients. Contact us today for a free consultation.