What is money laundering?

Money laundering means making dirty money look clean. Traditionally, this happens in three steps. The first step is placement. The second step is layering. And the final step is integration.

Once this process is complete, police cannot track down the criminal source of the money. Therefore, the person can use the money as if it came from clean source.

This type of crime causes real problems for police. It allows people to cover up a crime. And it allows them to avoid paying taxes. As a result, Congress passed a law that bans money laundering. Interestingly, this law covers a wide range of crimes. For example, it covers white-collar crimes. And it covers moving drug money out of the country.

Furthermore, this law contains two sections. First, Section 1956 bans three types of crimes:

  1. Transaction-Money Laundering; 
  2. Transportation-Money Laundering; and
  3. Sting Operations.  

Second, Section 1957 makes it a crime to take part in financial deals using dirty money that is over $10,000.00. In short, these two sections give police the power to stop currency crimes. To see how this law works, we need to consider a few examples.

What are examples of Money Laundering activities?

Examples of money laundering include:

  • Drug dealers putting drug money in a legal business;
  • A person carrying drug money from the United States to Mexico with intent to hide the source of the cash;
  • Sting Operations. This happens when undercover cops or snitches offer to hide the criminal source of the drug money for drug dealers; and
  • Taking out more than $10,000.00 from a bank account to buy a cashier’s check knowing the money came from Medicare or Medicaid fraud;

What are the penalties for Federal Money Laundering?

Jail Time and Fines for Federal Money Laundering Crimes.

StatutePunishment RangeFine
Section 1956Up to 20 years in prison.Potential fine of up to $500,000.00 or twice the value of the property involved, whichever is greater.

*Possible Civil Penalty.
Section 1957Up to 10 years in prison.Potential fine of not more than $250,000.00 or twice the amount involved in the transaction.

* Possible Civil Penalty.
This table lists the top penalties for federal money laundering crimes. However, according to the United States Sentencing Commission, the average sentence for money-laundering offenders was 64 months for Fiscal Year 2020.

What are my Defense Options?

Criminal intent is a key issue in money laundering cases. In many cases, police find a person with large amounts of cash. Police frequently assume this money came from a drug crime such as dealing meth. In other words, police assume the drug dealer will use the money to buy more drugs. Or that the drug dealer will send the profits to a cartel in Mexico.

Moreover, in many cases, police have ample proof to support this assumption. However, this is not true in every case. And the case law is clear. The person must intend to break the money-laundering law. Otherwise, he is not guilty of this crime. To illustrate, this means a person can provide legitimate and honest services for drug dealers so long as he does not intend to launder their money.

In summary, the intent requirement protects an innocent person from a wrongful conviction.

Affordable Criminal Defense Attorney.

Money laundering is a serious crime. And it carries stiff jail terms. But the law also contains precise terms. And the government must show a person intended to break those precise terms. If the government cannot do this, then a person is not guilty of this crime.

Most important of all, a person charged with this crime should review the facts carefully. Especially when two or more people are accused of laundering money. In these instances, the facts may show one person intended to break the law. But they may not show the other person intended to launder money.

Stated another way, guilt by association is not enough to show a person broke the money laundering laws.

About Criminal Defense Attorney Genaro Cortez.

Genaro Cortez is a San Antonio Criminal Defense Attorney.  He handles all types of federal money laundering cases in San Antonio and South Texas.
Genaro Cortez is a San Antonio Money Laundering Defense Attorney.

Genaro R. Cortez is a white-collar criminal defense attorney. He frequently handles money laundering cases in San Antonio and South Texas.  This includes taking complex-criminal cases to trial in San Antonio and Del Rio Federal Court

Law Office of Genaro R. Cortez, P.L.L.C.

730 West Hildebrand Avenue
Suite 2,
San Antonio, Texas 78212
Phone: 210-733-7575
Fax: 210-733-7578
Email: genaro.cortez@cortezlawyer.org