In criminal defense typically you're going to see money laundering charges being prosecuted at the federal level under 18 U.S. Code § 1956. The states usually don't mess around with these type of crimes and money laundering has to do with people who are into illegal activities, somehow getting funds and then trying to put the funds through some sort of a business of entity in order to legitimize the funds. So, they're basically laundering dirty money.
So, if someone is getting paid a bunch of catch and moving that through a business, if the government finds out about that then they will charge them with money laundering. I have seen them charge it at the state level as well, but it's usually attached with other crimes.
For example, some sort of drug offenses — possession for sales, sales of illegal narcotics and then the people are making a lot of money and then they're taking that money and the government can somehow track the money — then they can file money laundering charges. It really has to do with someone getting illegal money and then putting that illegal money into a bank, a business or a location and then using that to basically fund whatever type of business they're working on, but the business is getting the money from an illegal source, and that's where the money laundering aspect of the case comes in.
Narcotic and Bank Fraud Related Offenses
Again, I see these a lot of times tied with narcotics-related offenses and other bank fraud-related offenses where people are getting money, and moving money around, and the government uses the money laundering statute or Penal Code section to add an additional charge and try to take the money.
That's another thing they do. They will try to forfeit people's money who is attached to a business. So, let's say that you're using ill-gotten gains and you're funneling it through a business or let's saying your home off with that money, they can actually try to forfeit the money.
The District Attorney's office has their own forfeiture unit that deals with money laundering forfeiture cases. Also, the federal government also has their own Assistant U.S. Attorneys who all they do is try to forfeit money and keep it for the government.
So, if you're charged with money laundering, obviously you're going to want to get an attorney. They take these cases very seriously. If you want to try to get your money back that they've seized or any banks they've frozen, you're going to have to file a motion or your attorney is going to have to file a motion and basically show that the money is lawful money. It will have to be traced to some legitimate source if you truly want to try to get the money back, or at least get a portion of it back.
Filing Court Motions
I've done a lot of these motions, but the main thing to have a chance to get the money back is, you've got to be able to show the money was not from illegal drugs or any other illegal activity. This money was from a lawful business transaction. This money was from my job.
I can show myself putting my checks in and taking out. A lot of people unfortunately are not able to do that, so they're not able to keep the money. A lot of times it gets forfeited especially if you get convicted of the criminal case.
In my experience, that makes the probability of you getting the money back a lot less if you're taking a criminal conviction because that shows that you were money laundering, and therefore, the government is able to justify keeping the money because they have a much stronger argument that the money was from an illegal source versus from a legal source. Any time you're making payments and there's money laundering allegations and your payments for your house, for example, they can try to take the house.
Especially the feds. If you're using illegal money to pay a mortgage on a house, they can mount an argument so they get try to take whatever equity there is in the house.
So, if you're charged with money laundering in Los Angeles or anywhere across the county and it's at the federal level, pick up the phone and call a criminal defense lawyer. Give me a call. We'll sit down and talk about it and I'll see what I can do to help you protect your rights, your freedom and your reputation.