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Charges of money laundering can be rather serious and quite complex. Our law firm can help you.

How is Money Laundering Defined by Law?

Money laundering speaks of any financial transactions that involve funds gained from criminal activity. Generally speaking, the reason behind a money laundering transaction is to take money earned through illegal activity and make it look legitimate. This is called “laundering” since the process involves someone attempting to take “dirty” money and “clean” it up.

Money laundering takes place whenever money earned through illegal activity gets deposited in a bank or other financial institution. Also, money laundering happens wherever illegally obtained money is spent in a manner that helps promote or conceal the illegal activity.

Money Laundering Charges in Connection with Other Crimes

A person is almost never charged with a money laundering offense alone. By and large, we have seen money laundering charges brought in cases where the person is also charged crimes such as mail and wire fraud, drug conspiracy, racketeering (RICO), or some other financially motivated offense.

The government might also launch undercover “sting” operations to investigate and prosecute money laundering offenses in which the money is not actually “dirty money.” In such operations, an undercover agent can claim that the money is “dirty” even if it is clearly not.

Agreeing to Commit Money Laundering

Federal law also renders it illegal to enter into an agreement to launder money. Money laundering conspiracy charges are frequently brought against indviduals who have only played a small role in a larger, alleged criminal act. To demonstrate that a person is a party in a money laundering conspiracy, the government needs to prove that there was an agreement to commit money laundering and that the indvidual knew about the agreement and wanted to participate in it. The government is not required to demonstrate that the individual in question actually handled the funds or did anything specific to further the money laundering offense.

Possible penalties for Money Laundering Under Federal Law

Violating 18 U.S.C. §1956 can result in a sentence of as many as 20 years in prison. For violating 18 U.S.C. §1957, you could be looking at up to 10 years in prison. The precise sentence will be determined primarily by the amount of money involved in each unique offense.

Possible Defenses against Money Laundering Charges

Questioning the Origins of the Money

In all money laundering cases (except an undercover “sting” operation, explained above), the government must prove that the money was in fact earned through a criminal activity specified by federal law. The government also has to demonstrate that the person being charged was aware that the funds had been obtained from criminal activity.

Lack of Awareness

Although the government does not have to prove that the indvidual was aware of the specific crime that yielded the money, the government must still demonstrate that the facts and circumstances of the case would be sufficient to lead a reasonable person to conclude that the money was derived from the proceeds of illegal activity. A defendant cannot be found guilty of money laundering if they simply accept money without being aware that the money was obtained through criminal activity.

Absense of Financial Transaction

To convict someone of money laundering, the government must also show that there was a monetary or financial transaction involved. This generally means that the government would have to show that the person did something with the money other than put it in a safe or their closet. Depositing the money in a bank or spending the money in any way that helps promote or conceal criminal activities would normally be enough to show that a financial transaction was involved.

Connection to a Qualifying Crime

Of course, in any case other than an undercover “sting” operation, the government must show that the money involved in the case actually came from the commission of one of a list of specific crimes covered by federal law. If the money was not derived from one of these specific criminal activities, there can be no money laundering conviction regardless of how the person obtained the money or what the person did with it.

Recent Trends in Money Laundering Cases

An international money laundering, drug trafficking and illegal wildlife trade conspiracy was targeted in a recent indictment in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia.

In addition, FBI and FinCEN increased focus on potetntial money laundering transactions during the COVID-19 pandemic.  They are concerned that fraud may occur with new relief funds available.  Also, banks may flag normal financial activity as suspicious after much activity either or significantly reduced or ground to a halt in the midst of the financial hardship caused by the pandemic.

Call Us!  We Have Years of Experience with Money Laundering Cases

Federal money laundering laws can be extremely complicated and tricky. Our law firm has assisted clients in fighting money laundering charges in federal courts across the US and in a number of foreign countries.


While the majority of our clients contact us the moment they think they may be a target of a federal money laundering investigation, we are often hired by clients when they have become dissatisfied with the lawyer they have because their attorney is either not very experienced in federal money laundering cases, or they have not been providing the client the time and attention he or she should be getting. When we are retained by people in this category, there are two options.  We can either provide support to the client’s current lawyer or take over the case entirely.  It depends on what is best in your unique situation.

In addition, we help people who might be experiencing the stress of a federal criminal case for the first time and are looking for a “second opinion” about the strength of the government’s case. We can lend our expertise in federal money laundering matters with the client and the client’s current lawyer.  With our help, our clients are well equipped to make what is often a life-changing decision about accepting a proposed plea bargain or taking the case to trial.


Indeed, we have helped many of our clients win favorable resolutions or “not guilty” decisions in federal money laundering cases.  We also represent clients on federal criminal appeals, sentencing hearings and grand jury investigations involving connected allegations.


If you or your loved one is currently facing money laundering charges in federal court, contact us today for a free review of your case.


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Thomas A. Kenniff

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