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What Is Money Laundering?

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Money laundering is a serious crime where criminals use certain tactics to shield money obtained from illegal sources, instead passing it off as legitimate income. Terrorist activity, drug crimes, and organized crime are all situations where money laundering may occur. If you are facing charges for this crime, you can put yourself at risk for significant penalties such as jail time, fines, and civil consequences.

The Stages of Money Laundering

Money laundering involves significant financial footwork to conceal illicit funds. Often, businesses and financial institutions train professionals to look for signs of money laundering and stop criminals before they successfully complete the cycle.

The execution of money laundering involves three main stages.

  • Placement: This is the first stage of the money laundering process, where the individual committing the crime in question first places the funds into a financial system. Usually, illicit transactions like drug deals or bribes occur with cash only, so to avoid leaving any electronic or physical records. However, large cash transactions or deposits can trigger suspicions from regulators. To avoid holding on to a large amount of cash at one time and to defer suspicion, the individual may deposit the cash in small amounts into a savings account to avoid triggering reporting thresholds, or exchanging it for traveler’s checks and other liquid forms of cash.
  • Layering: This step involves separating the original funds from its illegal source to avoid detection during audits, which can involve a number of complicated processes. The actions that the individual in question might take vary based on the circumstances of the crime he or she is trying to conceal. He or she may place the money in multiple locations in small amounts, route it through different countries, or make business investments.
  • Integration: During the final stage of the money laundering process, the individual will use certain methods to obtain the original cash through what appears to be legitimate means. For example, if the individual invested the cash into a small business, he or she might receive the funds back from the business in the form of a dividend or other payment. He or she will take careful steps to avoid detection and scrutiny, especially while filing taxes.

Possible Defenses Against Money Laundering Charges

Money laundering is a multifaceted and complex crime, and may involve any number of stages for the cycle to complete. However, not all instances of what may appear to be money laundering actually qualify for a conviction.

If you are facing a money laundering conviction, your criminal defense lawyer may use one of the following defense strategies to convince the court to reduce or dismiss the charges.

  • Your attorney may argue that there is a lack of evidence to convict you of the crime. During a money laundering trial, the prosecution must provide evidence to support that you received the funds in question from an illegal activity and that you took steps to conceal the source of this money. If the prosecutor can’t prove this, the jury cannot convict you.
  • Sometimes, criminals force financial professionals to commit money laundering by threatening to harm the professional or his or her family. If you and your attorney can prove that you committed money laundering under duress, you can defend yourself against these charges.
  • You must have some intention to conceal the illegally-obtained funds to receive a money laundering conviction. You may not know that laundering was taking place, and you may become an unknowing participant in the crime. If you can prove that you were not aware of the laundering or the fact that the funds were from an illegal source, you and your attorney may be able to convince the court that you are not guilty of the crime.

If you are facing money laundering charges in Washington state, it is vital to contact an attorney who can assist you with your case. Hiring a lawyer with experience defending clients from money laundering charges can provide a number of benefits for your trial, including a deeper understanding of the Washington state court system, a greater chance of reduced or dismissed charges, and knowledge of the potential defense strategies you can use to your advantage. Contact a money laundering attorney as soon as possible following your arrest to plan your next steps.

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