In Florida, prosecutors take money laundering very seriously, and a conviction can have long lasting consequences. Generally, money laundering involves a financial transaction scheme aimed at channeling funds that were made from unlawful activities into legitimate resources while concealing the identity, source and destination of the ill-gotten gains. Although these are nonviolent offenses, anyone accused of money laundering faces a lengthy prison sentence and significant fines.
Herman Law. P.A. routinely defends clients against money laundering charges in Ft Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and throughout South Florida. If you have been charged with a white collar crime, our dedicated attorneys will work to protect your freedom and your reputation.
What is money laundering?
Under the Florida Money Laundering Act, this crime is defined as “knowing that the property involved in a financial transaction represents some form of illegal activity.” Money laundering also involves conducting or intending to conduct financial transactions with the proceeds of that activity. A wide range of financial transactions are associated with money laundering including purchases and sales, loans, investments, monetary gifts, wire transfers, bank deposits and currency exchanges.
In addition, money laundering is often connected to other crimes including, but not limited to:
- Identity theft
- Drug trafficking
- Mortgage fraud
- Healthcare fraud
- Racketeering (RICO)
- Tax evasion
Three Phases of Money Laundering
Although the process can be complex, money laundering generally involves three phases:
- Placement – This involves moving illegal funds from the original source into a legitimate one. In particular, money obtained from an illegal activity is placed into financial institutions, shops, casinos, offshore accounts, local, domestic or international businesses.
- Layering – In this phase, the money launderer attempts to conceal the money trail by converting the funds into monetary instruments such as money orders, or purchasing assets with the money such as real estate or businesses.
- Integration – The last step involves moving money that was previously laundered back into the economy, most often by depositing funds into the banking system or through a variety of dealings such as property transactions, fraudulent loans, front companies, foreign bank complicity, or false export/import invoices.
Florida Money Laundering Penalties
Money laundering is a felony offense and the severity of charges depends on the value of the transaction. Penalties at the state level include:
- First-Degree Felony – Financial transactions of $100,000 or more in any one-year period, punishable by up to 30 years in prison
- Second-Degree Felony – Financial transactions of $20,000 or more but less than $100,000, in any one-year period, punishable by up to 15 years in prison
- Third-Degree Felony – Financial transactions greater than $300 in any one-years , but less than $20,000, in any one year period, punishable by up to five years in prison
In addition, a person who is convicted of money laundering may be required to pay a fine not greater than $250,000, or twice the value of the transactions, whichever is more. If the defendant has prior convictions, the fine can be as much as $500,000, or five times the value of the transactions.
Federal Money Laundering Charges
Although money laundering can be either a federal or a state offense, federal charges and penalties are more severe. A conviction for federal charges is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and fines up to $500,000. Moreover, the government can seize or freeze assets such as cash, bank accounts, real estate, automobiles or other property connected to a criminal enterprise and these assets are subject to forfeiture.
Defending Money Laundering Charges in South Florida
At Herman Law, we have extensive experience defending clients against money laundering charges. In order to be convicted, the government must show that the defendant was aware of the unlawful source of funds and that he or she understood the transaction was intended to conceal detection of the proceeds that were obtained from the criminal activity.
We can design a defense strategy to demonstrate that there was a lack of intent to commit the crime, and that our client was unaware that the money was obtained from unlawful activity. Our attorneys may also be able to prove that were was no intent to conceal the funds, or that our client was under duress, such as the threat of harm, for not participating in a crime.
Our firm has the skills and resources that are necessary for winning an acquittal and routinely collaborates with a network of respected forensic experts to build successful cases. If you have been accused of money laundering, your freedom and your future hang in the balance. Call our office today for a free consultation.
Herman Law, P.A. serves clients in Ft, Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Martin, Okeechobee and Palm Beach Counties and throughout South Florida