Federal Money Laundering Crimes

What are Federal Money Laundering Crimes?

Federal money laundering crimes refer to the illegal activities undertaken to conceal the origins of illicitly obtained money and make it appear as if it came from legitimate sources. Money laundering is typically a three-stage process that involves placement, layering, and integration.

Money laundering is commonly associated with various types of criminal activities, including drug trafficking, corruption, fraud, organized crime, terrorism financing, tax evasion, and smuggling. The act of money laundering helps criminals legitimize their ill-gotten gains, obscuring the source of the funds and making it difficult for authorities to trace and confiscate the proceeds of their illegal activities.

Governments around the world have implemented stringent laws and regulations to combat money laundering, imposing obligations on financial institutions, such as banks, to implement robust anti-money laundering (AML) measures. These measures include customer due diligence, suspicious transaction reporting, record-keeping, and the implementation of comprehensive AML programs. Even in jurisdictions that do not have agreements with the United States and purport to offer total privacy to the depositor, a threat to indict can motivate bank officials to provide information in an effort to cooperate and avoid criminal charges.

Common Types of Federal Money Laundering Crimes:

Placement: This is the initial stage of the money laundering process where illicit funds are introduced into the financial system. Criminals may deposit cash in small amounts, make purchases, or engage in other transactions to avoid suspicion and scrutiny.

Layering: In this stage, the launderers create layers of complex financial transactions to obscure the trail of the illicit funds. They may transfer funds between different accounts, purchase and sell assets, or use offshore companies to complicate the money’s audit trail.

Integration: The final stage involves merging the laundered money back into the legitimate economy, making it appear as legal income or assets. This may include investing in real estate, businesses, or other assets, or simply commingling the illicit funds with legitimate funds.

Shell Companies: Money launderers often use shell companies, which are fictitious entities created solely for the purpose of disguising the origin of funds. These companies may have no actual operations or assets, but they serve as a front to give the appearance of legitimate business activities.

Trade-Based Money Laundering: Criminals manipulate international trade transactions to move illicit funds across borders. They may over or under-invoice goods or services, use false documentation, or engage in other fraudulent practices to disguise the movement of money.

Smurfing/Structuring: This technique involves breaking down large sums of money into smaller, less suspicious transactions to avoid triggering reporting thresholds. Smurfs, or individuals acting on behalf of the money launderers, make multiple deposits or transfers to different accounts to prevent detection.

Hawala/Hundi: These informal money transfer systems are prevalent in some cultures and regions. Hawala operates based on trust between brokers who facilitate transfers without physically moving money. It is susceptible to abuse for money laundering purposes due to the lack of regulatory oversight.

Cryptocurrency Laundering: Criminals exploit cryptocurrencies’ pseudonymous nature to launder money. They may use mixing services, which blend transactions to obfuscate the source, or employ other methods to convert illicit funds into cryptocurrencies and vice versa.

Casino Money Laundering: Casinos can be attractive venues for money laundering due to the large volume of cash transactions. Criminals may use the casino’s services to convert illicit funds into chips or engage in complex betting patterns to disguise the origin of the money.

Offshore Accounts and Tax Havens: Money launderers often utilize offshore bank accounts and jurisdictions with lax regulations to hide the true ownership and movement of funds. These jurisdictions purport to provide secrecy and facilitate the concealment of illicit assets.


Imprisonment: Money laundering offenses often carry significant prison sentences. The length of imprisonment can vary depending on the jurisdiction, the amount of money involved, and the severity of the offense. In some cases, individuals convicted of money laundering can face several years or even decades in prison.

Fines: Monetary penalties are another common form of punishment for money laundering. These fines can be substantial, often based on a percentage of the illicit funds involved in the offense. The specific amount of the fine will depend on the jurisdiction’s laws and the scale of the money laundering operation.

Asset Forfeiture: Governments may seek to seize and confiscate the assets and property acquired through money laundering. This can include cash, bank accounts, real estate, vehicles, and other valuable assets. Asset forfeiture laws vary across jurisdictions, but the aim is to deprive criminals of their ill-gotten gains. In some cases, substitute assets may be seized if the proceeds are unavailable.

Restitution: In addition to fines and asset forfeiture, courts may order money launderers to pay restitution to victims or affected parties who suffered financial harm as a result of the offense. The amount of restitution will depend on the specific circumstances of the case.

Enhanced Penalties: Money laundering crimes can attract enhanced penalties if they are associated with other illegal activities such as drug trafficking, terrorism, organized crime, or corruption. These additional charges can lead to longer prison sentences and more severe consequences.

What Does a Criminal Defense Attorney Who Represents People in Federal Money Laundering Cases Do?

An experienced criminal defense attorney who represents people in federal money laundering cases provides legal representation and counsel to individuals or organizations accused of money laundering. Money laundering refers to the process of disguising the origins of illegally obtained money, typically through a series of complex financial transactions, to make it appear as if it came from legitimate sources.

Here are some of the key tasks and responsibilities of a criminal defense attorney who represents people in money laundering cases:

Legal Advice and Counsel: Attorneys who represent people in money laundering cases provide legal advice and guidance to their clients. They assess the specific circumstances of the case, review the evidence, and explain the potential legal consequences and defenses available.
Case Assessment and Strategy: Attorneys evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the prosecution’s case against their clients. They develop a defense strategy tailored to specific circumstances, which may involve challenging the evidence, seeking procedural errors, or identifying mitigating factors.

Investigation and Research: Money laundering defense attorneys conduct their own investigations and research to gather additional evidence, challenge the prosecution’s evidence, or identify potential witnesses. They may work with forensic accountants or other experts to analyze financial transactions and uncover inconsistencies or alternative explanations.

Negotiations and Plea Bargaining: If appropriate, defense attorneys may engage in negotiations with the prosecution to reach a plea bargain or reduced charges. They advocate for the best possible outcome for their clients while considering the risks and benefits of going to trial.

Trial Preparation and Representation: Criminal defense attorneys who represent people accused of federal money laundering offenses prepare for trial by strategizing, interviewing witnesses, drafting legal motions, and analyzing the prosecution’s case. They represent their clients in court, presenting arguments, cross-examining witnesses, and challenging the admissibility of evidence.

Compliance and Regulatory Guidance: Defense attorneys in money laundering cases may advise clients on compliance with anti-money laundering regulations to prevent future legal issues. They can help develop internal policies and procedures to ensure adherence to legal requirements and provide guidance on reporting suspicious transactions.

The lawyers at the Attorneys For Freedom Law Firm have decades of experience defending clients charged with federal money laundering crimes. Our attorneys have the experience and knowledge to provide the best possible defense of these charges.

To schedule a Strategy Session with an experienced federal money laundering crimes attorney, contact the Attorneys For Freedom today. We can be reached online at AttorneysForFreedom.com or by calling our Arizona office at 480-755-7110 or our Hawai’i office at 808-647-2423.


Arizona Office Address:
3185 S. Price Rd.
Chandler, AZ 85248
Phone: 480-755-7110
Hawai’i Office Address:
1003 Bishop Street, Suite 1260 Pauahi Tower
Honolulu, Hawai’i 96813
Phone: 808-647-2423
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