What is Money Laundering?
There is no doubt about it-major amounts of money can be made through certain types of illegal activities. Part of the allure of smuggling drugs or guns, running gambling or prostitution rings, and committing organized theft, fraud, and other types of crimes is the fortune that can be amassed through the process. However, in addition to avoiding criminal charges, figuring out what to do with illegally obtained funds is a problem. You cannot just spend it, as it would likely alert the authorities. This is where money laundering comes in. Our Gwinnett County criminal defense attorneys explain more about money laundering and the serious penalties you could face if charged with this type of crime.
How Money Laundering Works
There is a saying when it comes to uncovering certain types of crime and illegal activities: “Follow the money.” Having large amounts of unexplained cash and living a lifestyle way beyond one’s apparent means are signs that arouse the attention of law enforcement authorities. The goal of money laundering is to take funds obtained through illegal activities and make them appear to have been legitimately earned. This generally involves a three-step process:
- Placement in a financial institution;
- Layering, so as to disguise the source of the money; and
- Integration, which involves redistributing and using the money once it is ‘clean’.
Under Georgia Code Section 7-1-912, financial institutions are required to record all transactions and report any that are suspicious. Simply depositing large amounts of illegally obtained money would alert the authorities. Instead, money launderers rely on ‘smurfs’, frequent smaller deposit amounts that are more likely to go unnoticed, ‘mules’, who open up bank accounts, make deposits, then wire the money to avoid detection, and ‘shells’, which are typically legitimate businesses that illegally obtained money can be run through.
Penalties for Money Laundering in Georgia
Money laundering is a serious criminal matter. As a federal crime, it carries maximum minimum sentencing requirements. Under the United States Code (18 U.S.C. §§ 1956 and 1957), anyone aiding, abetting, or otherwise participating in a money-laundering scheme could face serious penalties. These include:
- For promoting, concealing, and structuring money laundering, or tax evasion associated with it:
- Up to 20 years imprisonment in a federal institution on each charge;
- Up to a $500,000 fine per transaction.
- For making deposits or spending up to $10,000 in funds associated with money laundering:
- Up to ten years imprisonment;
- Fines of up to $250,000 or twice the amount of the transaction.
Discuss Your Case With Our Gwinnett County Criminal Defense Attorneys
To avoid federal charges and potentially severe penalties for money laundering in Georgia, reach out to Zimmerman & Associates. Give us a call or contact our Gwinnett County criminal defense attorneys online and request a free confidential consultation to discuss your case today.