Money Laundering Lawyer San Diego
Money laundering is both a federal crime and a severe offense in California. It is a white-collar crime that entails using illegal money to further an individual’s criminal activities through legal transactions.
It is the theory of investing “dirty money” to reap clean profits. However, under federal and state laws, such activities and the money transacted are considered illegal.
Your first call should be to a trusted San Diego money laundering attorney if you’re charged with money laundering. It would be best to have a criminal defense attorney with experience in white-collar crimes who can build up a strong defense in court.
Understanding Money Laundering
When an individual conducts or attempts to conduct a fraudulent financial transaction through a single or multiple financial institutions, it is considered money laundering under California Penal Code §186.10.
For the transaction to be a criminal activity, it must be proven that the individual was fully aware the money was directly or indirectly obtained from the crime.
The minimum transaction that qualifies for money laundering is $5,000 transacted within seven days or a minimum of $25,000 within 30 days. Illegal monies obtained from drug-related activities are also considered money laundering under California Health & Safety Code §11370.9.
Any money laundering activity aims to make it hard for the anti-money laundering authorities to track it. Individuals involved in criminal activities that generate large amounts of money often have the option of stashing it away before the authorities catch up with them.
Stashing away dirty money in a bank account or a legitimate business can generate clean profits to make it look like it came from legal proceeds.
Common Examples Of Money Laundering
The term money laundering is often confused with printing fake money. You mention money laundering, and people imagine a large amount of paper turned into cash tumbling through a washer and dryer.
But as we have noted, it’s the legal investments or transactions of illegal monies. Common examples of money laundering can occur when:
- A small-scale trader earns hundreds of thousands of dollars a month selling illegal drugs. He uses the dirty money to make legal transactions at the bank or his store.
- A company employee engages in embezzlement and uses the funds illegally taken from his employer to make massive deposits into his personal savings account.
- An individual obtains a large amount of money through fraud and uses it to invest in real estate.
- An individual conducts a bank heist and then opens several small checking and savings accounts in different banks throughout California.
- A person engages in extortion and then deposits the proceeds of blackmail into a savings account. He then wires the funds to a different account to confuse anti-money laundering authorities.
How Money Laundering Can Ruin Your Life: The Penalties
Under the California statute, money laundering can be considered a misdemeanor or a felony. The charge depends on the offender’s criminal history and the case’s circumstances.
If charged with a misdemeanor, the offender may be sentenced to a year in jail and fined a minimum of $1,000. On the other hand, a felony attracts a much harsher sentence of three years and a fine of $250,000.
The amount of money laundered is another factor for consideration. Funds amounting to $50,000 or $150,000 can attract another year in prison besides the actual offense.
Funds amounting to $150,000 or less than $1million attract another two years in prison. Anything higher than $1 million but not exceeding $2.5 million draws three more years onto the prison sentence.
If the money laundered was above $2.5 million, the offender receives an additional four years on their prison sentence. Any previous money laundering activities and convictions attract a minimum fine of $500,000 or five times the amount laundered.
In addition, the offender may be required to pay restitution to the victim, depending on how the money was obtained, whether through fraud or extortion.
Money Laundering Under California State Laws
In California, money laundering is addressed in the Health and Safety Code section 11370.9 and Penal Code section 186.10.
The Health and Safety Code Section 11370.9
This code deals with all the money obtained from drug-related crimes. Both federal and state laws prohibit the illegal sale of controlled substances.
Any person who unlawfully yet knowingly engages in the transaction of money obtained by violating the Health and Safety Code section 11370 or Division 10.1 with the specific intent to conceal or disguise the location, ownership, or nature of the source of the proceeds to avoid tracking by law enforcement.
For a person to be convicted of violating the HS Code 11370.90, the prosecutor must, without reasonable doubt, prove the following elements of money laundering:
- The money laundered was obtained from drug crimes
- The money laundered doesn’t need to be transacted in a financial institution
- The money laundered does not need to be in cash form
- Money laundering was done to conceal the nature or source of the funds.
Penal Code Section 186.10
Penal Code section 186.10 focuses on money laundering related to any specific crime. Given how serious the crime of money laundering is at both state and federal levels, the California Penal Code section 186.10 states the following:
Any person who conducts or attempts to conduct an illegal financial transaction or multiple transactions within seven days involving more than $5,000 or $25,000 within 30 days with the specific intent to aid or carry out a criminal activity while knowing the source of the proceeds is illegal is guilty of money laundering.
For an offender to be convicted of PC 186.10, the prosecutor must prove that the offender conducted or attempted to conduct one or several financial transactions with at least a single financial instrument through one or more financial institutions.
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Money Laundering Is Also A Federal Offense
Money laundering is both a state and federal crime, especially if the criminal activities involve interstate commerce.
For example, suppose a business owner or trader lived and worked in Phoenix, Arizona, but crossed the border to San Diego in California to sell illegal drugs. In that case, he could be charged under federal laws.
Another example is an offender who robbed a bank in Los Angeles and deposited the money in several banks throughout California, Nevada, Arizona, and neighboring states. The individual can be charged with a federal offense.
The maximum prison sentence for money laundering increases depending on the amount of money laundered at state and federal levels. If charged with a felony, the penalty may be increased in the following scenarios:
- A second conviction for money laundering attracts a maximum fine of up to $500,000. Depending on which one is greater, the penalty could also be set at five times the amount laundered.
- Where the amount laundered exceeds $2,500,000, the offender may be given an additional four years on top of the maximum prison sentence.