Las Vegas Federal Criminal Lawyer Explains Nevada Crime of Money Laundering (18 USC 1956)
Money laundering is a federal crime that law enforcement is very concerned about investigating and prosecuting. There is no minimum amount of money required to support a money laundering conviction, unlike other crimes involving money.
Money laundering is a serious offense that brings long jail times and huge fines. Your assets can also be seized or frozen which can impact your family and other people who depend on you.
Defending money laundering charges can be a complicated matter, especially if the prosecutor believes the offense occurred over a long period of time.
You should retain a Las Vegas defense lawyer as soon as possible if you have been arrested in Nevada for money laundering.
What is money laundering?
At the most basic level, money laundering is knowingly concealing or disguising the unlawful source of money or monetary instruments.
For example, a person who deals drugs may have lots of cash as a result of this unlawful activity. He or she may launder the money to conceal the illegal source of the money in many ways. For example:
- Depositing small amounts over time in a bank to avoid reporting of large deposits to the Internal Revenue Service and other authorities
- Taking cash across borders and depositing it in foreign banks which do not require reporting to United States authorities
- Paying employees’ salaries or for business supplies in cash
- Using a network of accounts to make small deposits and otherwise transact business in cash, while controlling the entire network of accounts
- Creating shell companies or cash-intensive business “fronts” to legitimize the proceeds of illegal activity.
Nevada is a hot spot for money laundering because Nevada’s gaming laws provide a common way to launder money. A person takes cash he or she earned from a criminal activity into a casino and exchanges it at the cashier or table game for chips. He or she then gambles for some period of time, and then turns the chips in for a check. That check gets deposited into a bank, and to the bank, the funds look like they are from a legitimate source- gambling winnings. This simple method of laundering money in Nevada using hotel chips and checks is just as serious an offense as more elaborate schemes to launder large amounts of illegally earned money.
Sentencing for Money Laundering in Las Vegas
Nevada courts can impose the following sentences for money laundering:
- Fines up to $500,000 and
- Prison time of up to 20 years. Nevada does not have a federal prison located in the state, and so any prison time required following a money laundering conviction means you will be sent out of state to a place which has a federal prison.
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The court may freeze or seize assets of a person charged with money laundering as well, and this may extend to accounts which have money that was not part of the money laundering scheme.
For this reason alone, a money laundering charge is quite serious and if you have been arrested on suspicion of money laundering, you should contact qualified money laundering lawyer as soon as possible.
As with any serious crime involving truthfulness and money, a conviction for money laundering can make it difficult to get hired ever again. Many jobs involve handling money in one way or another and this crime may make employers think twice about hiring you.
Defenses to Money Laundering in Nevada
Money laundering is more than simply possessing funds earned illegally from criminal activity. There must be a financial transaction used to hide the true source of the funds. If the state cannot prove each of these elements beyond a reasonable doubt, it cannot get a money laundering conviction. It is important to know that the crime that resulted in the profits is also punishable if the state can prove it. For example, if drug trafficking is the source of the illegal funds, that is a crime that the government can try to prove, in addition to money laundering.
Federal courts in Nevada also require the money used in a financial transaction to be “profits” from the illegal activity, and not simply transactions which are part of the scheme. For example, in a scheme to defraud investors of funds by providing fake, high returns, the initial payments to investors are not acts of money laundering. Those payments cause investors to deposit more money with the people in charge of the investment scheme, and are not profits of the illegal activity. In practice, this may not be helpful in reducing your sentence because it may still constitute an act of securities or other fraud which carries its own punishments.
This is an example of how complicated legal theories and past cases dictate the outcome of money laundering cases, and why a good money laundering defense attorney in Las Vegas is so important to your defense against these charges.