Money laundering involves taking money gained from unlawful activity and making it appear to come from a legitimate source. It can be used to hide the proceeds from illegal gambling, trafficking, bribery, or other unlawful ventures involving cash. In California, money laundering is a criminal offense under California Penal Code 186.10. Penalties may include up to three years in jail, and a fine of up to $250,000.
Money Laundering in California
Carrying and moving large amounts of cash can be dangerous. Depositing large cash amounts may raise suspicions about where that money came from. If it is determined that the money came from some illegal activity, the money could be seized and the individual arrested. In order to transfer and freely use large amounts of money, it may need to be “legitimized” through an apparently legal source.
Laundering money generally involves a three-step process. It begins with bringing the “dirty” money into a legitimate financial system. Then the money may be moved around and transferred between a number of accounts and commingled with other money from legitimate sources. Finally, the money is integrated back into the financial system so that it now appears legitimate.
Money Laundering Penalties
The penalties for money laundering depend on the individual's criminal record and criminal activity associated with the money laundering. Money laundering drug money is a separate criminal offense in California under Health and Safety Code 11370.9. Concealing or disguising the source of drug money over $25,000 total in a 30-day period can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. A conviction for felony drug money laundering could result in up to 4 years in prison, and a fine of up to $250,000.
Other money laundering crimes can also be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. If the value of money laundered is less than $50,000, a first-time offense may be charged as a misdemeanor. The penalties for a conviction for misdemeanor money laundering include up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $250,000, or twice the value of money laundered. Each individual transaction can result in a separate criminal offense. A second or subsequent conviction can also lead to increased penalties. Money laundering involving amounts over $50,000 can result in felony charges, up to a maximum of 4 years in prison.
Money Laundering Investigations
There are a number of ways an individual can become a suspect in a money laundering investigations. When banks or financial institutions suspect transactions are conducted involving possible illegal funds, they are required to file a suspicious activity report (SAR). Other ways law enforcement learns of possible money laundering is through whistleblowers or police informants. In some cases, the IRS or federal agencies offer financial rewards for reporting money laundering.
Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney
Lynn Gorelick has more than 30 years of criminal defense experience and understands the penalties involved with money laundering charges. She understands how to approach the individual facts of each case for the greatest chance of success to keep her clients out of jail. If you are facing money laundering charges anywhere in Contra Costa County or Alameda County, contact Lynn Gorelick. You do not have to plead guilty just because you were arrested.