Federal Money Laundering Defense Lawyers
While many federal investigations target money laundering specifically, money laundering is also an “add-on” charge in many other types of federal inquiries. Our federal defense lawyers represent business owners, bankers, health care providers, and other clients who are facing money laundering charges nationwide.
Like most federal crimes, money laundering carries severe penalties. If convicted of money laundering in federal district court, individuals can face up to 20 years in prison and fines of $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved in the illicit transaction, whichever is greater. Clearly, if you are under investigation for money laundering, you need to take your situation extremely seriously. You need to execute a strategic defense, and this means that you need to speak with a highly-experienced federal defense lawyer as soon as possible.
At Oberheiden, P.C., we represent clients in federal money laundering cases nationwide. We fight to prevent money laundering charges during federal investigations, and we provide vigorous defense representation for federal grand jury proceedings and federal criminal trials. With centuries of combined experience, our defense attorneys have an extensive track record; and, when clients get us involved during the government’s investigation, we are usually able to resolve their investigations without charges being filed.
What Types of Transactions and Activities Constitute Money Laundering?
Money laundering crimes are defined in 18 U.S.C. § 1956 and 18 U.S.C. § 1957. While each statute contains a multitude of prohibitions, the primary transactions and activities that constitute money laundering are described as follows:
18 U.S.C. § 1956(a) (Laundering of Monetary Instruments):
“Whoever, knowing that the property involved in a financial transaction represents the proceeds of some form of unlawful activity, conducts or attempts to conduct such a financial transaction which in fact involves the proceeds of specified unlawful activity . . . with the intent to promote the carrying on of specified unlawful activity[;] with intent to engage in [tax fraud]; or . . . knowing that the transaction is designed in whole or in part . . . to conceal or disguise the nature, the location, the source, the ownership, or the control of the proceeds of specified unlawful activity [or] avoid a transaction reporting requirement under State or Federal law, shall be sentenced to a fine of not more than $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved in the transaction, whichever is greater, or imprisonment for not more than twenty years, or both.”
18 U.S.C. § 1957(a) (Engaging in Monetary Transactions in Property Derived from Specified Unlawful Activity):
“Whoever. . . knowingly engages or attempts to engage in a monetary transaction in criminally derived property of a value greater than $10,000 [that] is derived from specified unlawful activity, shall be . . . fine[d] . . . or imprison[ed] for not more than ten years or both. . . . [T]he Government is not required to prove the defendant knew that the offense from which the criminally derived property was derived was specified unlawful activity.”
Although 18 U.S.C. § 1957 and certain provisions of 18 U.S.C. § 1956 are limited in scope to transactions involving property derived from “specified unlawful activity,” the definition of this term is so broad that it encompasses virtually all types of federal crimes that have the potential to result in financial gain. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Bank fraud
- Government program fraud
- Health care fraud
- Insurance fraud
- Securities fraud
- Bribery of government officials
- Drug crimes
- Human trafficking
- Smuggling and other import and export crimes
- Theft and embezzlement
- Violent crimes
- Various types of criminal conspiracies
Additionally, while knowledge is a key element of money laundering under 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a) (“Whoever, knowing that the property involved in a financial transaction represents the proceeds of some form of unlawful activity . . . .”), it is not as significant an element of the government’s burden of proof under 18 U.S.C. § 1957(a). Under this statute, the fact that you knew you were engaging in a transaction is sufficient to establish culpability without proof that you knew that the transaction involved the proceeds of specified unlawful activity. This provision in 18 U.S.C. § 1957(a) is intended to allow for prosecution in cases where parties to transactions are “willfully ignorant” of the source of the funds or other property involved.
Facing Wire Fraud Allegations During a Divorce?
It is not uncommon during a contested divorce for angry or threatening words to be exchanged between spouses. However, some spouses choose to escalate the situation by accusing or threatening to accuse the other spouse of a crime, such as wire fraud. If such charges are brought, the results can be devastating for the accused spouse. In addition to the legal and reputational consequences of facing criminal allegations, the accused spouse will also be forced to retain a federal criminal defense attorney. Baseless allegations are particularly troubling, but also particularly common, as a tactic to affect child custody determinations.
The federal wire fraud statute punishes individuals who use wire, radio, television or internet communications as a mean of obtaining money or property from others under false pretenses. 18 U.S.C. § 1343. Wire fraud is a felony punishable by up to 30 years in federal prison and a $1 million fine. 18 U.S.C. § 1343. Allegations of wire fraud are investigated by the United States Secret Service in cooperation with the local United States Attorney’s Office. The Secret Service is charged with investigating fraudulent activity conducted through our nation’s electronic and telecommunications systems.
Federal prosecutors take allegations of wire fraud very seriously and an accusation of wire fraud should never be ignored. Merely being under federal investigation for wire fraud could have a devastating impact on your career or business. Federal investigators have the power to seize records, files and other documents from your home or business and they may freeze personal or business financial accounts. If you enter a plea deal, having a felony conviction on your record will likely cost you any professional licenses that you have and could result in further restrictions on your life and livelihood, such as being barred from many employment opportunities, many federal benefits, and gun ownership. Even if you are eventually acquitted, defending a federal charge of wire fraud will likely cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and expenses.
Any spouse accused of wire fraud should immediately contact attorneys who understand contested divorces and have experience defeating federal charges. The sooner you take action against accusations or threats of accusations of wire fraud, the more likely you will be to avoid criminal charges and the costly consequences of a federal investigation. At Oberheiden, P.C., our attorneys regularly defend federal criminal charges and represent clients facing contested divorces. Our attorneys have handled many complicated and contested divorce proceedings. Additionally, many of our attorneys worked as federal prosecutors before becoming criminal defense attorneys.
What are Potential Defenses to Allegations of Federal Money Laundering?
While the federal money laundering statutes are broad, there are also several potential defenses to federal money laundering allegations. The defenses available in any particular case will depend on the specific facts and circumstances involved; and, to find out what defenses you have available, we encourage you to contact us immediately so that we can intervene in the government’s investigation. Potential defenses to money laundering allegations under 18 U.S.C. § 1956 and 18 U.S.C. § 1957 include:
- Lack of Knowledge – As we mentioned above, knowledge is an element of the government’s burden of proof in federal money laundering cases (although the relevance of knowledge varies under 18 U.S.C. § 1956 and 18 U.S.C. § 1957). If you lacked the requisite knowledge for criminal culpability, you are not guilty of the crime alleged.
- Lack of Intent – As explained by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), money laundering charges also require proof of varying degrees of intent. For example, if the government cannot prove that you intended to promote the carrying on of specified illegal activity, then you are not guilty under 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a).
- Lawfully–Derived Property – If any transactions in which you have engaged have not involved unlawfully-derived property, then you are not guilty of money laundering.
- Legitimate Purpose for Financial Transactions – Likewise, if you were engaging in financial transactions for a legitimate purpose (or believed you were engaging in financial transactions for a legitimate purpose), this can provide a defense in some cases as well.
- Coercion or Duress – Were you coerced into engaging in unlawful transactions? Did you launder illegally-obtained funds under duress? While these defenses won’t apply in all cases, if you can show that you were forced to engage in unlawful transactions against your will, this can provide a complete defense to culpability.
- No (or Insufficient) Evidence – Don’t forget, the government always has the burden of proof. If prosecutors cannot collect enough evidence to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, then you do not have to raise any other defenses in order to avoid a conviction.
- Constitutional Violations – Even if prosecutors have the evidence that proves criminal culpability, if the evidence was obtained in violation of your constitutional rights, then it cannot be used against you in court. Our attorneys have significant experience using the provisions of the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments to protect our clients.
What Should You Do if You are Facing a Federal Money Laundering Investigation?
If you are being targeted by the DOJ, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), or any other federal agency for money laundering, what should you do to protect yourself? The key is to engage experienced legal representation as soon as possible. When you engage our federal defense team to represent you, our attorneys will work quickly to:
1. Determine the Specific Allegations Against You
Money laundering allegations can take many different forms, particularly in today’s world of electronic transactions and cryptocurrency. In order to build an effective defense, you need to know specifically why you are being investigated under 18 U.S.C. § 1956 or 18 U.S.C. § 1957. Are you being accused of funneling money through real estate or shell companies? Are you being accused of using digital currency transactions to hide the source of funds? Are you being accused of structuring transactions to avoid federal reporting requirements? These are all very different allegations that require very different defenses.
2. Determine Whether You are Facing Other Charges as Well
In addition to knowing the specific nature of the government’s money laundering investigation, you also need to know if you are being targeted for prosecution for any other federal crimes. In many cases, individuals targeted in money laundering investigations will be at risk for prosecution for various fraud crimes and federal offenses as well. With our attorneys’ extensive experience on both sides of federal criminal matters, we can assess the circumstances of your investigation to determine whether you are at risk for facing other charges.
3. Make Sure You Don’t Do Anything That Could Get You Into (More) Trouble
At this point, you need to be very careful to do anything that could get you into trouble (or, potentially, get you into more trouble) with the federal government. Among other things, this means: (i) cease any questionable activity, (ii) do not communicate with anyone about your case, and (iii) make sure you do not destroy any documents or property that might possibly constitute evidence in the government’s case against you. Learn more about what not to do during a federal money laundering investigation.
Experienced Attorneys Defending You Against Wire Fraud Charges
The attorneys at Oberheiden, P.C. can assess your case and help you determine an appropriate defense strategy. If the accusations of wire fraud are merely a vindictive attempt by your spouse to gain leverage in your divorce proceedings, we can help you take measures that will prevent or reduce any investigative interest into your case. Our lawyers can communicate with the authorities on your behalf and allow you to safely cooperate with the investigators without incriminating yourself or damaging your case. Conversely, if we determine that the accusations of wire fraud may have merit, we can help you build a defensive strategy that will result in the most advantageous outcome under the circumstances. Our number one objective is always to avoid criminal charges for our clients.
Contact the Federal Criminal Defense Team at Oberheiden, P.C.
Are you facing a federal money laundering investigation? Is your spouse is threatening you with accusations of wire fraud? Could you be at risk for decades of imprisonment and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines? To discuss your case with a member of our federal defense team in confidence, call us at 214-469-9009 or request a free case assessment online now.