Money laundering is a process through which money acquired from criminal activity is legitimized by making it appear as if it came from a non-criminal source. Money laundering can both mask the source of the money as well as the original ownership, making it harder to trace the crime back to one person. process of money laundering essentially masks the original, here criminal, source of the money through one or more financial transactions. Transaction is broadly construed under California's money laundering laws. A transaction can be a deposit, withdrawal, transfer, bailment, loan, pledge, payment, exchange, or bank draft. The guise of the transaction can be through banking or investment transactions, or even through a business "front". In order for the financial transaction(s) to be considered illegal, the total value of the transactions within a seven-day period must be greater than $5,000, or $25,000 if within a 30-day period. Money laundering is a California wobbler crime, meaning it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the facts and circumstances of the case and the defendant's criminal record.
Money laundering can be charged under two laws. Under California Health and Safety Code 11370.9, it is illegal to transact money gained from drug-related crimes with the intent of masking the original source and ownership of the money. This includes failing to report any transactions you are required to report under law. All parties involved with the transactions can be charged. This charge is punishable by up to one year in a county jail, or two, three, or four years in a state prison, depending on whether it is charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. The defendant may also face a fine of up to $250,000, or twice the amount of the transaction(s), which ever is greater. Under California Penal Code section 186.10, money laundering of criminal proceeds not gained from a drug-related crime is punishable by up to one year in a county jail, a fine of up to $250,000, or twice the value of the money laundered, or some combination of the both.
As with many California crimes, repeat offenses of money laundering come with much harsher consequences. For a second money laundering offense, defendants will face a fine of up to $500,000, or five times the value of the money laundered, whatever is greater. The consequences may increase with the number and value of financial transactions. It is important to note here that you can be charged with money laundering under state law or federal law. If you are facing federal money laundering charges, you should speak with an experienced attorney immediately. To be convicted of money laundering under California state law, it must be proven that you completed financial transactions with proceeds from criminal activity and were aware of the source of the money. This isn't necessarily always easy for the prosecution to prove, which is why having an experienced attorney assist you with your defense can be so valuable. You cannot be charged with money laundering if you did not have the criminal intent to launder the money, or, if you weren't aware of the origin or ownership of the money. Similarly, the prosecution must prove the total value of your transactions exceeded $5,000 if done within a seven-day period or $25,000 if done within a 30-day period. This may or may not be easy, depending on the method or instrument through which you laundered the money. Money laundering falls under the category of a white-collar crime, but this doesn't make it any less serious. Even white-collar crimes can result in felony charges, lengthy prison sentences, and substantial fines. If you are facing money-laundering charges, you should speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. The laws on money laundering are complex and the potential consequences are severe, so it is best to have the assistance of a criminal defense attorney when facing this charge. Money laundering is criminalized as a means of making criminal behavior less profitable and higher risk, with the intent of deterring criminals from committing crimes that result in profit. However illegal, money laundering is still a significant problem in California and elsewhere. Because of this, money-laundering charges are taken seriously under both state and federal law so you should take your defense seriously.
If you or a loved one has recently been arrested and are being charged with money laundering in the Tulare, Fresno or Kings County area, call experienced criminal defense attorney Christopher Martens today for expert counsel. At The Law Offices of Christopher Martens, we can assess your case and help you prepare a strategic defense. Attorney Martens has over ten years of criminal defense experience and will fight hard for your rights. Contact our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] to discuss a possible plan of action for your case.