Criminal Prosecutions for Money Laundering

Criminal prosecutions for money laundering under 18 USC 1956 (a)(2) arise when monetary instruments or funds are transmitted or transferred, transmitted or transferred internationally. In each case, defendant must have acted with criminal intent (i.e. promoting or concealing money laundering or avoiding reporting requirements).

Violations of 18 USC 1956 have a maximum 20-year jail sentence and a $500k fine or twice the amount involved in the transaction, whichever is greater.

A civil cause of a action may be pursued under 18 USC 1956 (b). The civil penalty is not more than the greater of $10k or the value of the funds involved in the transaction. Each separate financial transaction is charged in a separate count. For example:

1) Party earns $100k from offense (count #1)

2) Party withdraws $50k (count #2)

3) Party purchases a car with the withdrawn $50k (count #3).

Under the case law, charging multiple financial transactions in a single count is duplicitous (see: US v. Prescott 42 F.3d 1165 (8th Cir. 1994); US v. Conley 826 F. Supp. 1536 (W.D. Pa 1993).

Under 18 USC 1956 (a) (1) criminal prosecution must prove the following:

1) The defendant knew that the property involved was the proceeds of any felony under federal, state or foreign law.

2) The defendant knew that the property was illegally derived in some way (the defendant is not required to know the specific crime from which the proceeds were derived) See 18 USC 1956 (c) (1).

3) The defendant initiated or participated in a financial transaction.

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