Defining Money Laundering
When money is illegally obtained, it can be confiscated by the government. This is especially true for money in the drug trade. “Laundering” is a way of “cleaning” this “dirty” money, making it appear legitimate. If the money is legitimate, or appears to be, it will be much harder for the government to take it away.
There are many ways to launder money. Sometimes, financial wizards find ways to route it through several bank accounts. Eventually, the money’s journey becomes so complex, it’s hard to lock down its origin. Once it lands at its ultimate destination, it’s hard for authorities to question where it came from.
Often, money is laundered through a legitimate business. The people involved in a criminal enterprise invest in a small business, say a beauty salon or a printing company. The tainted money is written off as part of the business’s profits, making it appear to have been legally obtained.
Concealment is a big part of a money laundering crime. Those involved are actively hiding the fact that the money was criminally obtained.
Money Laundering Penalties in Ohio
The state has classified laundering as a third-degree felony. If convicted, a person can serve 9 months to 3 years in prison.
Fines vary depending on the amount of money laundered. First, prosecutors double the amount of the money laundered. Then they compare this amount to a flat fine of $7,500. Whichever number is greater, this could be the total fine. For instance, say you were accused of laundering $5,000. $5,000 x 2 = $10,000, which is greater than $7,500. Therefore, you could be fined $10,000.
Furthermore, someone convicted of laundering may be hit with additional fines. The state multiplies the money allegedly laundered by three, and that fine is added to the state treasury. Using the example above that could put the total fines as high as $25,000, or $10,000 + $15,000.
Defenses Against Money Laundering
As you can see, money laundering is a serious offense in our state. If you’ve been accused of this crime, you should seek legal counsel immediately.
What follows is a list of credible, effective defenses you can use against money laundering accusations. Discuss these strategies with your attorney, and allow them to help you craft a defense against these severe allegations.
You Didn’t Mean to Launder Money
In any good criminal case, prosecutors should show the defendant’s intent. It’s not a strong case if the defendant’s actions were an accident.
People who need their money laundered are probably involved in a bigger criminal enterprise. These are individuals known for their ability to manipulate and deceive. It’s entirely possible that they swindled you into believing that they were credible, legitimate businessmen, and the money was on the up and up. You may have moved it around for them, unaware that you were committing a crime.
You Were Operating Under Duress
It bears repeating: People who launder money received that money through criminal behavior. Chances are, these are not the most scrupulous characters. More likely, they are dangerous, and they are not concerned with others’ welfare.
A person like this could easily intimidate a financial expert into criminal behavior. This intimidation could be subdued, such as using blackmail. It could also be overt, such as direct threats against the finance worker or their family. Whatever the case, if you were operating out of fear, you could be exonerated of your charges. What’s more, you may be able to help take down the criminal who came after you.
Coercion is not always so dramatic. Sometimes people find themselves working for corrupt employers, employers who force them into illegal acts. Courts and the law are aware of the power imbalance between boss and employee, and they can be sensitive to your plight. If you were ordered to launder money by your boss or your company, you could avoid prosecution. In fact, by cooperating with the police, you may be able to hold your unethical bosses accountable for their behavior.
Explain That the Transactions Were Out in the Open
Successfully prosecuting someone often involves following the law to the letter. Every little aspect of a crime must be satisfied to acquire a conviction. Recall that earlier, we mentioned that concealment is a big part of a successful money laundering charge.
Put simply, you can fight a money laundering charge by explaining that the money wasn’t concealed. Imagine you helped a drug dealer use his money to buy a legitimate business. That isn’t money laundering. That’s investing ill-gotten gains. If you didn’t hide illegally acquired money and start funneling it through the business, you aren’t guilty of money laundering.
The Money Was Not Illegally Obtained
Again, the police must satisfy all parts of an accusation for the charge to stick. When investigating a money laundering scheme, cops are essentially working on two levels. First, they must prove that the money came from illegal activity. Then, they must show that you laundered these funds.
If the money was not illegally obtained, the police have no case. Operating on a simple suspicion is not enough to accuse you of laundering. Remember, convictions require proof “beyond a reasonable doubt.” If you and your attorney can poke holes in the claim that the money was illegally acquired, you can create doubt in the entire premise of the case.
If you’ve been accused of money laundering, don’t hesitate to contact our office. We can offer you a free consultation. After hearing the facts of your case, we may be able to start working on your defense right away. You can reach us online or call us at (888) 694-4645.