Money laundering is a non-violent, white collar crime that involves transfer of money or property that has been acquired through unlawful means. The crime also covers money that may have been earned legally otherwise, but considered unlawful because of tax evasion.
The crime has become associated with drug warlords and criminals. However, it may surprise some to know that most cases of money laundering involve bankers and money transfer agents. Usually, these agents become involved in money laundering unsuspectingly.
People dealing in international money transfers need to take due diligence measures. This is to ensure that the money they are dealing in has not been acquired through illicit means.
Money laundering can be very complicated to deal with. Many bankers fail to apply due diligence practices due to negligence rather than the intent to commit money laundering. However, it can become difficult to put up a defense simply on the basis of lack of intent and negligence as it can backfire in court.State Legislation
Money laundering charges are covered under 720 ILCS 5/29-B. The law states that a person commits the offense of money laundering when he or she knowingly and with intention does one of the following.
- Engages in a financial transaction where the proceeds are acquired through some form of unlawful activity or attempts to conduct such a financial transaction which involves criminally derived property.
- Intends to carry out the unlawful activity from which the criminally derived property is obtained.
- A person also commits the offense where he or she;
- Tries to conceal or disguise the nature, location, source, ownership or control of the criminally derived property.
- Tries to avoid a transaction reporting requirement set under the state law.
- A person also commits money laundering when he or she attempts to or actually transfers, transmits or transports a monetary instrument
- With the intent to carry on an unlawful activity from which the criminally derived property was obtained.
- With the knowledge that the transaction is designed in whole or in part to conceal or disguise the transaction from reporting requirements under State law
The severity of the punishment depends upon the value of the property that was the subject of money laundering.
If money laundering involves property with a value of up to $10,000, it can be charged as a Class 3 felony with 2 – 5 years in prison.
Where the value of the property is more from $10,000 to $100,000, it can be charged as a Class 2 felony with 3 – 7 years in prison.
Money laundering of property with a value from $100,000 to $500,000 is charged as a Class 1 felony with 4 – 15 years in prison.
If the value of property in question is more than $500,000, it is considered a Class 1 felony without probation and punishable by 4 – 15 years in prison.
In case of a conviction, the defendant can also be fined up to $25,000Examples and Court Cases
In a recent case, a judge dismissed charges of theft and money laundering against a member of the Peoria Rivermen’s ownership group.
Bart Rogers had been charged by the prosecution along with four others in September last year. Charges included theft, wire fraud, money laundering and tax evasion. The prosecution had carried out a lengthy investigation and accused the defendants of financial misconduct.
The defense argued that the charges fell outside the three year window of the statute of limitations for the charges. The defense has also challenged some of the charges as they lacked sufficient detail to link Rogers to any criminal activity that took place at the firm.
The judge largely agreed with the defense claims that the case should be dropped on technical grounds. In his ruling, the judge noted that “the prosecution did not mention which acts of deception were used by the defendant to acquire the fund. The charges were unusually vague about what actions the defendant took that he could be held legally accountable for.”
The remaining four defendants have also pleaded not guilty to charges of money laundering and theft. Their trials are still ongoing.
In a separate case a businessman from Champaign County was targeted by the investigators in a sting operation. Kirit Patel was charged with money laundering and using his restaurant as a front for buying stolen goods.
Undercover officers from the Champaign police department pretended to be selling stolen goods and contacted Patel in January. They sent witnesses into Patel’s store several times with audio and video wires.
The person would pretend to be selling stolen items and even warned Patel not to take the items to a pawn shop because they could get tracked.
According to the police, Patel would offer less money for any electronic devices that were locked or blacklisted. Blacklisted devices cannot operate in the U.S. but they can be sent abroad where someone can jailbreak them.
Authorities claim they sold him several items, including devices with tracking devices which led them to his home. In his home, they found stolen goods worth $75,000 including computers and phones that had been reportedly stolen. The man is yet to be charged but if convicted he could face prison sentence of 2 – 5 years.Possible Legal Defenses
In order to get a conviction for money laundering, the prosecution must prove that the defendant had both the intention and the knowledge to commit the offense.
This opens up the possibility to argue from the lack of intent and knowledge. If the defendant can show the courts that he or she did not have the knowledge about the unlawful source of funds, they may be able to get the case dismissed or the punishment reduced significantly.
The defendant can also choose to invoke his or her constitutional rights if the evidence is obtained through an illegal search. The fourth amendment allows citizens certain protections and rights within their own homes. Any evidence obtained in violation of the constitutional rights can be taken off the record by the judge.
Certain sections of the legislation require that the defendant must have intended to conceal the unlawful source of the funds. The burden of proof lies on the prosecution to show that the transaction was illegal and the defendant tried to disguise it knowingly.
An experienced legal defense team would know which key pieces of the evidence must be challenged that would weaken the prosecution’s case. A skilled defense attorney can get the ruling in his or her client’s favor by using a strong defense strategy.