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What is Money Laundering?

January 24, 2022

In recent years, there has been a renewed focus on the issue of money laundering. According to data provided by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the equivalent of $1 trillion and $2 trillion U.S. dollars are laundered globally each year. State and federal prosecutors are cracking down on money laundering schemes.

If you are facing allegations of money laundering or you were arrested on a money laundering charge, it is imperative that you have access to the tools, knowledge, and resources needed to protect your rights. In this blog post, our Chicago money laundering defense attorney provides a comprehensive guide to money laundering charges.

Money Laundering: Defined

Broadly defined, money laundering is the knowingly and intentional process of trying to turn funds obtained from an illicit source into “legitimate” cash. In other words, money laundering occurs when a person attempts to conceal the source of funds obtained from criminal activity. Often, money laundering charges are brought against people who allegedly obtained illegal funds from financial fraud or drug trafficking.

As an example of how money laundering works, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) recently announced that an Illinois man pleaded guilty to a money laundering charge. In that case, the DOJ alleged that the man attempted to launder between $550,000 and $1,500,000 that was obtained from internet-based fraud schemes. The defendant allegedly tried to disguise the ill-obtained funds as legitimate business revenue.

Money Laundering is Both a State and Federal Crime in Illinois

It is important to emphasize that money laundering is both a federal crime and a state crime. In 1986, President Ronald Reagan signed the Money Laundering Control Act into law. Among other things, the legislation made money laundering a federal criminal offense (18 U.S. Code § 1956). Many states, including Illinois, also have criminal money laundering statutes in place. Money laundering is a felony under Illinois statutes 720 ILCS 5/29B-1.

While state and federal money laundering statutes are not identical, they are broadly similar. To get a conviction in a money laundering case, a state or federal prosecutor must generally prove the following three things:

  1. Knowledge: Prosecutors must prove that the defendant knew that the funds in question were obtained as the result of felony criminal conduct such as drug trafficking, internet fraud, financial fraud, or embezzlement, for example. Notably, constructive knowledge, a reasonable belief, is sufficient to meet this element.
  2. Participation in a Financial Transaction: Next, prosecutors in a money laundering case must establish that the defendant actually participated in some type of financial transaction involving the ill-gotten funds.
  3. Unlawful Intent: Finally, prosecutors must also prove that the defendant had unlawful intent in moving the money. In most money laundering cases, prosecutors try to satisfy this element by proving that the defendant was trying to conceal the true source of the funds.

What to Know About Money Laundering Penalties

Money laundering is a very serious criminal offense. Under Illinois state law, the severity of a money laundering charge depends largely on the amount in question. Here is an overview of the state penalties for money laundering in Illinois:

Federal money laundering charges can carry even more severe criminal penalties. A conviction for money laundering under Section 1956 could carry a maximum criminal sentence of 20 years in federal prison and a $500,000 fine.

Common Defense Strategies Against Money Laundering Charges

A number of different defenses can be raised in money laundering cases. If you or your family member is facing a state or federal money laundering charge, it is crucial that you explore all potential legal defenses. A proactive approach is critically important in complex white-collar criminal cases. Here are four of the most defenses against money laundering charges:

  1. Lack of Adequate Evidence: As with other criminal charges, defendants in a money laundering case are innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. A prosecutor has the burden of presenting sufficient evidence to prove all elements of the charge.
  2. No Actual or Constructive Knowledge of Criminal Activity: Both state and federal money laundering require actual or constructive knowledge that the funds in question were obtained as the result of criminal activity. Lack of knowledge may be a valid defense. Once again it is important to clarify that actual knowledge is not required. A reasonable belief/suspicion that money had a felony criminal source may be sufficient.
  3. Lack of Intent to Conceal Funds: Prosecutors must prove criminal intent in money laundering cases. Engaging in a financial transaction involving ill-gotten funds is not money laundering unless the individual in question has active intent to conceal the source of the funds.
  4. Coercion/Duress: Finally, a defendant may be able to raise affirmative defense coercion or duress. A person who committed all of the elements of money laundering may not be guilty of the offense if they were forced to do so by another party.

How an Illinois Money Laundering Defense Attorney Can Help

Money laundering cases are complex. It is normal to be frightened, confused, and overwhelmed if you are facing criminal allegations. At The Law Offices of Vadim A. Glozman, we help individuals accused of state or federal white-collar criminal charges. When you reach out to our Chicago law office, you will have an opportunity to consult with an Illinois money laundering defense lawyer who is prepared to:

Call Our Chicago, IL Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer for Help

At The Law Offices of Vadim A. Glozman, our Chicago federal criminal defense attorneys have the professional skills and legal expertise to defend clients facing money laundering charges. If you or someone you know was arrested for money laundering, we are available to help.

Call us at 312.726.9015 to schedule your strictly confidential consultation. From our legal office in Chicago, we provide federal criminal defense representation throughout the region, including in Cook County, Will County, Kane County, McHenry County, and DuPage County.