Money laundering is the white collar crime of making money gotten from illegal means look as though it has been obtained through a legitimate manner. The United States became the first country to make money laundering a crime in 1986.

What You May Not Know about Money Laundering

The law can reach beyond U.S. borders if both of the following have occurred: 

  • Money laundering was committed by a U.S. citizen or by a non-U.S. citizen who conducted at least part of the offense in the United States
  • The money laundering transaction totals more than $10,000

What Can Happen If You Are Accused of Money Laundering?

The potential punishments for money laundering are extremely severe: 

  • Criminal sentence of up to 20 years in prison
  • Criminal penalty of up to $500,000 in fines
  • Civil penalty lawsuit filed by the government for the value of funds or property involved in money laundering

Who Can Be Sued in Civil Money Laundering Lawsuits?

Money laundering is not only a criminal offense, but the following perpetrators can also be held civilly liable: 

  • Individuals - As mentioned above, the government can file a civil penalty lawsuit for the value of funds or property laundered against individuals.
  • Financial Institutions - The Department of Justice also has the unique power under money laundering laws to pursue civil lawsuits against financial institutions even though they may not have been charged with the crime of money laundering, so long as the lawsuit:
    • Is based on allegations that employees laundered money, and
    • Seeks recovery of the amount of money laundered.

What Can You Do If You Have Been Accused of Money Laundering?

Since money laundering is a serious federal crime and carries harsh penalties, it is in your best interest to contact a criminal defense lawyer if you have been accused of laundering money. A criminal defense attorney is familiar with the intricacies of federal law and will be able to help in your defense.