Both Florida and federal laws strictly prohibit money laundering, and harshly penalize organizations and individuals for participating in any behavior that the laws consider laundering. If you believe you are under investigation or officers have already arrested you for money laundering, speak to a money laundering lawyer in St. Petersburg at Goldman Wetzel today.
How does the law define money laundering?
Florida Statute § 896.101 defines money laundering as conducting any type of financial transaction in order to conceal or disguise money obtained through an unlawful activity. The law uses the term “laundering” because the money must be “cleaned” by running it through a host of transactions before depositing it.
A couple of elements must be present in order for the act to fall under the category of money laundering. Specifically, whoever obtained the funds must have done so by felonious criminal activity, and the accused must have known that the original obtainer acquired the funds through criminal activity.
Below are some examples of money laundering.
- Altering invoices to show a higher or lower figure
- Buying real estate with money obtained illegally
- Purchasing a bunch of small money orders to disguise the funds
- Smuggling cash into another country
- Transferring illegally obtained funds into chips at a casino
What penalties might I face?
The potential penalties you face for money laundering depend on whether your charges are state or federal, as well as the amount of money that the government (either state or federal) alleges you laundered.
Florida law imposes the following penalties for laundering.
- Third-degree felony – If the financial transactions were over $300 but less than $20,000, in a 12-month period, you face five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
- Second-degree felony – If the financial transactions were at least $20,000 but less than $100,000, in a 12-month period, you face 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
- First-degree felony – If the financial transactions were $100,000 or more, in a 12-month period, you face 30 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Federal law [18 U.S.C. § 1956] imposes the following penalties. If convicted, the accused faces 20 years in prison and/or up to $500,000 if the accused:
- Attempted to use known illegal funds in an attempt to carry on illegal activity, violate sections 7201 or 7206 of the Internal Revenue Code, or avoid transaction reporting requirements
- Transported, transferred, or transmitted known illegal funds to carry on or conceal the illegal activity or to avoid transaction reporting requirements
In many cases, those indicted for laundering face additional similar charges such as racketeering. Goldman Wetzel will be able to tell you exactly what your charges entail and any possible defenses.
What defenses are common against these charges?
There are several viable defenses that we will explore to fight money laundering charges. The most common defense is that the defendant did not know the original obtainer acquired the money through criminal activity. Entrapment is another common defense. In this case, the defendant will say law enforcement entrapped or tricked him to commit the crime.
Each case is unique, and the defense that works best for you will depend on the specifics of your situation. Your attorney can help craft a defense that may prompt prosecutors to drop or reduce your charges or encourage a jury to acquit you.