Money Laundering

Money Laundering Crimes

What Is Federal Money Laundering?

Money laundering refers to the process of making illegally obtained or “dirty” money appear legitimate or “clean” by passing it through a complex series of transactions. It involves disguising the true origin, ownership, or destination of funds derived from illegal activities. Money laundering is typically associated with various criminal offenses, such as drug trafficking, fraud, corruption, terrorism financing, organized crime, tax evasion, and more.

Money Laundering Involves Three Primary Stages:

Placement – This stage involves introducing illicit funds into the legitimate financial system. Criminals often deposit cash into banks, use it to purchase assets like real estate or vehicles, or convert it into other forms such as prepaid cards or cryptocurrencies. The aim is to place the illicit funds into the financial system without raising suspicion.

Layering – In this stage, the goal is to obscure the trail of the illicit funds by creating complex layers of transactions. The funds may be moved between multiple accounts, converted into different currencies, invested in various assets, or subjected to intricate financial transactions. The objective is to make it difficult to trace the original source of the money.

Integration – The final stage involves reintroducing the laundered funds into the legitimate economy. At this point, the money appears to be clean and indistinguishable from legally obtained funds. The laundered funds may be used to finance legitimate businesses, purchase assets, or simply withdrawn as “clean” money.

Here Are Some Examples of Federal Money Laundering Offenses:

Structuring – Involves breaking down large amounts of cash into smaller deposits to avoid currency transaction reporting requirements. This tactic is used to prevent banks from reporting suspicious transactions to authorities.

Trade-based Money Laundering – This method involves disguising illicit funds through trade transactions. For instance, false invoicing, over or under-invoicing, or using fraudulent documents to manipulate the value or volume of goods and services traded internationally.

Shell Companies – Criminals set up fictitious companies to create a facade of legitimate business operations. The illicit funds are then funneled through these entities to make them appear as legitimate earnings.

Casino Money Laundering – Criminals may use casinos to convert illicit funds into chips, play games, and then cash out, creating a veneer of gambling winnings. This process makes it challenging to trace the origin of the funds.

Smurfing – Similar to structuring, smurfing involves breaking down large amounts of cash into smaller deposits or transactions to avoid detection and reporting requirements.

Virtual Currency Laundering – The rise of cryptocurrencies has provided new avenues for money laundering. Criminals exploit the anonymity and decentralized nature of virtual currencies to move and convert illegal funds across borders.

Professional Services Laundering – Money launderers may use professional services such as lawyers, accountants, or financial advisors to hide the illicit origin of funds. These professionals help disguise and integrate illegal funds into the legitimate economy.

Offshore Accounts – Money laundering can occur through offshore bank accounts and tax havens, where financial regulations and reporting requirements are less stringent, making it easier to hide and move funds anonymously.

It’s important to note that the examples provided here are not exhaustive, and money laundering techniques evolve over time as criminals adapt to regulatory measures.


The penalties for federal money laundering crimes vary depending on the specific offense and the amount of money involved. Here is a general overview of the penalties:

Money Laundering (18 U.S.C. § 1956) – Engaging in money laundering may result in a fine of up to $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved in the transaction, whichever is greater, and imprisonment of up to 20 years. In addition, someone that conducts or attempts to conduct a transaction designed to launder money is liable to the United States for a civil penalty equating to the value of the property, funds, or monetary instruments involved in the transaction, or $10,000, whichever is greater.

International Money Laundering (18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(2)) – Similarly, international money laundering is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Money Laundering Involving Specific Unlawful Activity (18 U.S.C. § 1957) – Money laundering involving funds derived from specific types of criminal activity (such as drug trafficking), totaling over $10,000, is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Courts may impose an alternate fine of not more than twice the amount of the criminally derived property involved in the transaction.

It’s important to note that these penalties are provided as a general guideline and may vary depending on the specific circumstances of the case, prior convictions, and other factors. Additionally, other related charges, such as conspiracy to commit money laundering or structuring transactions to evade reporting requirements, may also carry additional penalties.

What does a defense attorney representing individuals charged with federal money laundering do? Defense attorneys practicing in this field defend individuals or entities accused of money laundering in federal court. Money laundering is the process of concealing the origins of illegally obtained money, typically by channeling it through a series of transactions or activities to make it appear legitimate.

Key Tasks of Defense Attorneys Representing Individuals Accused of Federal Money Laundering:

Legal Representation – The attorney serves as the legal representative for their client throughout the entire legal process. They provide advice, guidance, and support, ensuring their client’s rights are protected.

Case Evaluation – The attorney will thoroughly examine the details of the case, including the evidence, witness statements, financial transactions, and any related documentation. They will assess the strengths and weaknesses of the prosecution’s case against their client.

Strategy Development – Based on the case evaluation, the attorney will develop a defense strategy tailored to their client’s specific circumstances. This may involve challenging the admissibility or reliability of evidence, scrutinizing the investigative methods, or presenting alternative explanations for the financial transactions involved.

Investigation – The attorney may conduct an independent investigation to gather additional evidence or information that supports the defense’s arguments. This may involve hiring forensic accountants, private investigators, or experts in financial matters to analyze complex financial transactions or trace the source of funds.

Negotiation – In some cases, the attorney may engage in negotiations with the prosecution to seek a favorable plea agreement or reduced charges for their client. They will advocate for the best possible outcome considering the circumstances.

Courtroom Representation – If the case proceeds to trial, the attorney will represent their client in court. They will present the defense’s arguments, cross-examine witnesses, challenge the prosecution’s evidence, and make persuasive arguments to the judge and jury.

Sentencing Advocacy – If the client is found guilty or pleads guilty, the attorney will advocate for the most favorable sentence during the sentencing phase. They may present mitigating factors, such as the client’s lack of prior criminal record, cooperation with authorities, or any other circumstances that warrant leniency.

Federal money laundering charges can be complex and carry severe penalties, including substantial fines and lengthy imprisonment. Therefore, a skilled and experienced defense attorney is essential in navigating the legal process and protecting the rights and interests of the accused individual or entity.

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

To schedule a Strategy Session with an experienced criminal defense attorney, contact the Attorneys For Freedom today. We can be reached online at 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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