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 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.
18 U.S.C. § 1956 is the most frequently charged money laundering statute and prohibits four types of money laundering activities - specifically, transactions designed to: i) promote certain specified unlawful activity; ii) conceal the source of unlawfully derived funds; iii) facilitate the structuring of financial transactions to evade bank reporting requirements; and iv) facilitate tax evasion. "Specified unlawful activity" is a term of art and 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.
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, pursuant 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.
Hiring a top New York money laundering criminal defense attorney to defend you in any money laundering prosecution is crucial and will ensure that every viable defense explored and utilized on your behalf. 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 at (212) 518-1001 for a free consultation.