The term “money laundering” often brings up visions of suit-wearing mafia bosses. Scattered among their illegal business endeavors are legitimate business operations they use to make sure authorities cannot follow the money trail back to them.
The above may be an accurate, if not Hollywood-glorified, version of the truth, but it is not the only way that money laundering happens. If you currently face accusations of being involved in this particular criminal activity, it may help to better understand what you face as you move forward.
Some basic information about money laundering
Money laundering involves taking money gained from criminal activities and making it seem like it came from a legal source. The three basic steps involved include the following:
- One deposits the “dirty” money into a legitimate financial enterprise or institution.
- Bookkeeping tricks and numerous financial transactions conceal the original source of the money.
- Individuals then withdraw and use the “clean” money for whatever they desire.
It may seem like a simple scheme, but it usually involves many moving parts. Innocent people can easily find themselves drawn into the web as the money goes through the laundering process. Owning a legitimate business that operates mainly on a cash basis is just one way this happens. You could work in one of those businesses and not even know what is really going on, but if you have anything to do with the management of the money, authorities may suspect you of being involved.
Money laundering has even evolved to use the internet. So much money changes hands through anonymous financial transactions that any number of ways could disguise the true intent. For instance, trading in cryptocurrencies like bitcoin could open you up to investigation.
What happens next?
Regardless of the circumstances, if you find yourself under investigation for money laundering, the time to act is now, well before authorities issue any arrest warrants. You have rights, and protecting them needs to be a top priority. Even though the law considers money laundering a white-collar crime, it still comes with harsh penalties, such as fines and prison time. Your entire life could turn upside down simply by virtue of the investigation, let alone any arrest, charges, court appearances or convictions.
Considering what is at stake, it would benefit you greatly to exercise your right to speak with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. You do not have to wait until the conclusion of the investigation to do so. In fact, the earlier you begin working with an attorney, the better you can protect your rights and explore options for the best resolution possible.