Money laundering statutes make it a crime to transfer money derived from almost any criminal activity (including organized crime, white-collar offenses, and drug transactions) into seemingly legitimate channels, in an attempt to disguise the origin of the funds. Money laundering occurs whenever a person attempts to conceal the source, destination, or identity of illegally obtained or acquired money. Money laundering is criminalized under both state and federal laws.
Money laundering applies when a person attempts to conceal illegally obtained funds, but it doesn’t include merely spending money. If, for example, you make $1,000 selling stolen goods and then go out and buy something, you have not laundered any money. Though you have committed the crime of dealing in stolen goods, to be convicted of money laundering you’d need to try to conceal or disguise where the money originated, or otherwise disguise it.
The Supreme Court has ruled that in order to prove federal money laundering charges, prosecutors must show a person concealed money specifically to conceal the location, ownership, source, nature, or control of the money. It isn’t money laundering, for example, to try to conceal money during transportation by putting it in a hidden place. Laundering would involve taking that money and trying to make it appear as if it came from a legitimate source.
As a former Manhattan prosecutor and a founding white collar criminal defense lawyer at Crotty Saland PC, I can confidently assert that District Attorney’s in NYC vigorously pursue all crimes. However, the reality of the financial crisis lends credence to the argument that white collar crimes, such as Money Laundering, are appealing targets of law enforcement due to the potential asset forfeiture or fines that can be levied against defendants. In the realm of Money Laundering, pursuant to NY Penal Law Sections 470.05, 470.10, 470.15 or 470.20, DWI prosecutors have the ability, based on statutes, to “disgorge” those convicted of this crime. In fact, pursuant to NY Penal Law Section 470.25, individuals convicted of Money Laundering can be fined in a significant amount in addition to other penalties including terms of state prison.
White collar crime” can describe a wide variety of crimes, but they all typically involve crime committed through deceit and motivated by financial gain. The most common white collar crimes are various types of fraud, embezzlement, tax evasion and money laundering. Many types of scams and frauds fall into the bucket of white collar crime, including Ponzi schemes and securities fraud such as insider trading.
Money laundering targets the specific act of concealing, or attempting to conceal, the ill-begotten proceeds of criminal activity. Courts have ruled that there must be some criminal activity involved that produced the profits before it can be money laundering. If, for example, you make $10,000 by selling a car and then try to hide that money from the IRS at tax time, you haven’t committed money laundering. You’ve violated tax laws, but because the sale of the car was legal your actions do not count as money laundering.
According to New York Penal Law Section 470.25(1) a person convicted of Money Laundering under New York Penal Law Sections 470.05, 470.10, 470.15 or 470.20, may be sentenced to pay a fine up to “two times the monetary instruments which are the proceeds of specified criminal conduct.” It is the court that makes the finding or determination as to the value of the monetary instrument(s).
In determining how much a fine should be, the courts may examine many factors including: (1) the seriousness of the conduct, (2) whether the amount of the fine is disproportionate to the conduct in which the defendant is engaged, (3) the crime’s impact on the victims, and (4) the economic circumstances of the convicted person including the effect of the imposition of such a fine on the convicted person’s family.
It is important to note that according to NY Penal Law Section 470.25(2) that a fine levied against an individual based on NY Penal Law Section 470.25(1), “shall preclude the imposition of any other order or judgment of forfeiture or fine based on the same criminal conduct.”
If you are accused of money laundering, seek the legal assistance of a New York Criminal Attorney and New York Order of Protection Attorney at Stephen Bilkis and Assocites.