What Is International Money Laundering?

Money laundering is an example of a white collar crime. It also may be considered a fraud crime, causing it to fall into the same category as crimes such as extortion or writing bad checks.

Money laundering occurs when someone attempts to make funds that were gained illegally appear to have been gained legitimately. Sometimes, this is called “washing” money because someone takes financial actions, such as funneling funds through various businesses or accounts, to make the “dirty” money appear “clean” or legal.

International money laundering occurs when someone takes these actions to “wash” money that involves transferring funds into and out of international accounts or businesses.

Potential Consequences of International Money Laundering

Money laundering is a federal crime that can lead to serious consequences, including fines of hundreds of thousands of dollars and prison sentences of up to 20 years.

In one case in New Jersey, for example, a man was sentenced to 6 years in prison for laundering $1.5 million internationally. In this case, the man was accused of being involved in schemes that defrauded three separate people. The schemes involved fake romances, real estate, and charity support.

How Someone Can Unwittingly Be Included in a Money Laundering Scheme

You can face consequences for international money laundering even if you were originally pulled unwittingly into the scheme. Individuals who organize and carry out money laundering schemes often use people who don’t realize they are involved in something illegal.

One example is the use of money mules. These are people who help move illegal money or assets through the money laundering process, often without being aware of the source of the money or that they are doing something wrong.

In some cases, money mules might carry actual money or assets on their person across international lines. In other cases, they may be used in some way to transfer money via digital means.

One example is that a person is provided with illegal checks to cash. They may not know—or know for sure—that the check is fraudulent. However, if they suspect that something isn’t quite right or take money for cashing the check to supplement their own income, they could be committing a federal crime without completely realizing it.

Another way you might become involved in a money laundering scheme and not realize it is getting hired in a work-from-home position that involves “managing” money. You get paid by keeping a portion of the money that you “manage,” and managing the funds involves moving it into various accounts.

In some cases, people build up a “relationship” with someone before they ask them to get involved in moving money. For example, someone from another country may take time to befriend you on social media or even strike up an online romance. Once they believe you trust them, they may ask you to help with a business, charity, or other effort. Or, they may tell you that they want to send money to someone else but can’t for reasons that sound compelling—so they want you to receive the money and send it along for them.

If you are being asked to receive and transfer money by people you don’t know in person or trust, especially if they say you can keep a portion of the funds for your efforts, you may want to ask more questions. You certainly don’t want to get involved with these types of schemes if someone reaches out over social media.

However, if you are caught up in such a scheme or face international money laundering charges for any other reason, know that you do likely have some options for defense. Talking to a criminal defense attorney can help you understand the specifics of your case.

What Does the Prosecution Need to Prove in a Money Laundering Case?

Typically, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt three major facts in a money laundering case. First, it has to show that the person accused of the crime knew or had reason to know that the funds involved were illegal. It doesn’t have to demonstrate that the person knew the details of the crime; simply that the person was likely aware that the funds were not 100% legitimate.

Next, the prosecution must demonstrate that the person being charged was involved in a specific financial transaction. This could involve a variety of transactions, including:

  • Receiving funds and transferring them to another account or person
  • Receiving funds and making a directed purchase
  • Receiving funds and making a donation
  • Extending any sort of credit, such as a personal loan

Finally, the prosecution must demonstrate that the above-mentioned financial transaction was part of the money laundering process.

What Are Some Common Defenses in International Money Laundering Cases?

The best defense in a specific situation depends on the unique facts of that case. However, some common money laundering defenses include:

  • Lack of intent or knowledge. In some cases, unintentional account mistakes or business practices might lead to something that appears like money laundering. Or, someone may be caught up in a money laundering scheme and truly have no idea about it.
  • Acting under duress. You may have a defense if you are being forced to engage in money laundering activities due to threats on your life or the lives of your loved ones.
  • Illegal evidence. If the prosecution is building a case with evidence that was not obtained through legal methods, a possible defense is to attack the evidence and case in general.

Ensure You Have a Strong Criminal Defense Team At Your Side

If you’re facing money laundering charges, you do have options to protect your rights and defend yourself. Reach out to the Bianchi Law Group at 862-210-8570 to find out how our team of former prosecutors can help.