Money laundering refers to the crime of knowingly engaging in a financial transaction or property transfer using the proceeds of illegal activity, with the result being that money, property, or proceeds from a crime are converted to assets that are otherwise lawfully acquired.
Under Florida’s Money Laundering Act, a conviction for money laundering requires proof that the defendant knowingly transported money or conducted transactions with the intent to conduct some other illegal activity. The prosecution bears the burden of proving that the defendant knew the proceeds involved were related to some type of illegal activity.
Florida, more than most states, has an extensive familiarity with money laundering crimes. Florida’s real estate boom of the 1970s and 1980s, for example, owed part of its growth to drug smuggling criminals laundering large sums of cash from offshore locations, leading to a massive government crackdown on these practices at the State and Federal levels. Despite these efforts, money laundering practices continue, and Florida’s metropolitan locations such as Tampa remain ideal locations to hide laundered money in expensive real estate and other assets.
Government efforts to expose and prosecute money laundering schemes may put individuals and business owners alike under the microscope when transferring money of any amount over $10,000, even for legitimate purposes.
Federal and State Penalties for Money Laundering
The Federal statutes proscribing money laundering were enacted in 1986 with the passage of the Money Laundering Control Act, codified at 18 U.S.C. §§ 1956 and 1957. In addition to Federal Statutes concerning money laundering, Florida has a multitude of interconnecting money-laundering statutes such as the Money Transmitter Code and Florida Control of Money Laundering in Financial Institutions Act. These are designed to provide tools for local and state law enforcement to combat crime related to drug trafficking and other areas that remain problematic in Florida.
Accusations of laundering money at the state level in Florida are typically prosecuted by the local State Attorney in each judicial circuit, or by a statewide prosecutor with the office of the Florida Attorney General.
Convictions for money laundering can involve up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $500,000 or twice the value of the property that was involved in the transaction, whichever amount is greater. Those convicted of money laundering can also be exposed to civil liability and restitution claims from those claiming they suffered a financial loss or were defrauded.
Money laundering charges are frequently associated with other crimes related to the unlawful activity that produced the laundered money (drug trafficking or embezzlement, for example). Therefore, nearly every federal law enforcement agency investigates money laundering including the IRS, United States Customs Service, United States Secret Service, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and even the United States Postal Service.
What Should I Do if I am Under Investigation or Charged with Money Laundering?
People suspected of committing money laundering can face severe penalties, including lengthy prison terms, fines, and restitution costs. It is critical to work with an experienced white-collar crime defense law firm in the Tampa area that can investigate the facts and help you build your defense.
Even if charged with the crime of money laundering, you may have strong defenses available.
- There was no underlying criminal conduct associated with the financial transaction. Prosecutors must show that the transaction in question was designed to move proceeds from some type of illegal activity. If your records show a legitimate business or personal purpose for the financial activity, you can counter the Prosecution’s allegations of money laundering.
- The Defendant did not knowingly transfer funds with the intent to conceal activity. The Prosecution also bears the burden of showing a Defendant’s intent in transferring money that is allegedly related to criminal activity. The facts of your individual case may show otherwise, and can be a key element of your defense.
- There was no intentional concealment of funds, or efforts to deceive law enforcement. Being able to show where money is and why it is there can also be a critical building block of your defense in a money laundering investigation.
Contact a Tampa Money Laundering Defense Law Firm to Build Your Case
Reviewing your bank records, emails, and other electronic data with a skilled defense attorney that has years of experience in this area is a critical first step. Your liberty, finances, and reputation are all at stake when law enforcement alleges money laundering against you or your business.
The Tampa money laundering lawyers at Trombley & Hanes, P.A. practice both white collar criminal defense and civil litigation, representing clients in Tampa, throughout Florida and nationwide who have been accused of laundering money through a wide variety of financial transactions. Contact us today for help with your case.