A number of factors may influence and inspire criminal behavior, including biological risk factors, adverse childhood experiences, mental illness, and substance abuse. However, perhaps the number one motivator behind many criminal acts is profit. When a large amount of currency is at stake, that often means the illegally gained money must be introduced into the nation's legitimate financial systems. The most common way to do so is what's known as money laundering.
Money laundering is a process that criminals use to hide the illegal sources of their income. By passing money through complex transfers and transactions, the money is “cleaned” of its illegitimate origin and made to appear as genuine business profits. Charges of money laundering fall under federal jurisdiction, which means that the federal government may prosecute anyone accused of money laundering.
Fortunately, there are experienced Santa Barbara criminal defense lawyers from the Aron Law Firm standing by to protect your interests after a money laundering arrest.
What Is Money Laundering?
Money laundering is the universal term used to describe how criminals mask the original owner of proceeds from criminal conduct by making it appear to have derived from a legitimate source. There are several common types of money laundering, including schemes related to casinos, cash businesses, and foreign investment.
For example, if you deposit a large amount of cash for your car wash, club, or other cash-heavy business, the bank has no way of knowing if the cash is dirty or not. Laundering money through cash-intensive businesses was the preferred method of laundering for the famous gangster, Al Capone, who evaded investigators for years by funneling the money his crimes generated through his small empire of laundromats. The term “money laundering” was coined by the agents investigating him.
You may also funnel your money through casinos by converting it into casino chips, which are then briefly played, and then transferred back into cash. Likewise, “smurfing” refers to the practice of distributing small amounts of cash to a series of partners who then deposit the money in incremental amounts.
When it comes to foreign investment schemes, the IRS has little power to account for how the money used in these investments was accumulated. For example, you may deliver cash to a foreign partner, and the money is laundered when the foreign business invests into the legitimate business using money that was given to them.
What Are the Elements of Money Laundering in California?
As stated in California Penal Code Section 186.10 PC, laundering is considered a white-collar crime that carries serious penalties. Money laundering in California contains the following elements:
- The defendant completed a transaction through a financial institution
- The total amount of the transactions is more than $5,000 over seven days or more than $25,000 over 30 days
- The transactions were made to encourage criminal activity
- The defendant knew the funds involved were from the proceeds of criminal activity
Money launder is considered a “wobbler” offense in California, meaning that it may be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony depending on the circumstances of the case and the defendant's criminal history. As a misdemeanor, the possible penalties for money laundering may include up to a year in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000. As a felony, money laundering may land you between 16 months and 4 years in state prison and a fine of up to $250,000, or twice the amount of money that was laundered—whichever is greater.
Federal law makes it a crime to engage in a financial transaction where illegal activity is promoted to hide the illegal source of the money. If you're convicted of a money laundering charge on the federal level, you may be sentenced to up to 20 years in federal prison and may even be fined up to $500,000, or twice the amount of money laundered—whichever is greater.
Contact an Experienced Money Laundering Defense Lawyer in Santa Barbara
If you or a loved one is facing a money laundering charge, it's crucial that you get in touch with an experienced money laundering defense lawyer as soon as possible. Fortunately, the California criminal defense lawyers at the Aron Law Firm may be able to help. Our knowledgeable attorneys are dedicated to protecting your rights by investigating your case and putting together a calculated defense. With the right legal team on your side, you may be able to avoid the consequences that stem from this offense.
At the Aron Law Firm, we have experience helping clients fight an assortment of criminal charges, including money laundering. Our seasoned legal team is with you every step of the way. To speak with a money laundering defense attorney, schedule a consultation by calling (805) 618-1768 or completing our online contact form today.