Los Angeles Money Laundering Defense Lawyers
Money laundering is, by nature, a complex crime. It’s the act of transferring money that was obtained illicitly into a bank account, business, or another legitimate location to hide the fact that it originated from illegal activity. While many would consider is mostly victimless, and certainly not violent, the courts still take it extremely seriously. If you are being charged with felony money laundering, then you could be facing years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines.
If you or a loved one has been accused of money laundering in Los Angeles, you’re facing a very frightening situation. With the possibility of severe penalties and the prospect of facing the federal government in court, it’s important that you have the right legal team on your side. At Werksman Jackson & Quinn, LLP, our team has the necessary experience to represent your case and give you the aggressive criminal defense you deserve. To contact our lawyers, call our firm at (213) 688-0460 today.
In the state of California, money laundering occurs when you deposit, withdraw, or exchange funds that were obtained from criminal activity. Due to the many ways in which money and other assets can be transferred, the laws covering money laundering have a wide scope. They can apply to wire transfers, foreign currency exchanges, or any transaction involving a financial institution.
It is common to see on the news or hear stories about a company that was involved in money laundering schemes, or of a criminal mastermind who funneled money from their illegal enterprise into different channels. Since banks are required to report all deposits exceeding a certain value to the federal government for tax-related purposes, many criminals will opt to make deposits that are slightly below this limit to ensure that their transactions will not be reported. This method, however, also known as “smurfing,” can immediately appear as suspicious.
While there are many strategies that criminals employ in order to commit money laundering, there are several risks associated with all of them. Individuals will, at times, launder money by purchasing assets that are valued less than what they should be normally. For instance, purchasing a $1 million house for $500,000 in “clean” money and then later selling it at full price, thus laundering $500,000 of “dirty” money.
Another common method of laundering money is going to the casino. Individuals who wish to launder money at a casino simply exchange their money for chips and then cash it out at a later time. In almost all the various ways in which money can be laundered, there are red flags. With the widespread nature of anti-money laundering groups these days, investigators are getting more skilled at identifying suspicious activity.
Money laundering in order to hide the distribution of drugs in incredibly common in California. In fact, California law specifically mentions the laundering of drug money in Health and Safety Code - HSC § 11370.9. This law helps lay out exactly what must be proven in order for someone to be convicted of laundering of drug money. The prosecution needs to show that a number of specific acts took place for the charges to stick. This law often makes it difficult to be successfully prosecuted for money laundering in connection with a drug crime. Under the Health and Safety law, the following factors must be proven to have taken place:
- That you knowingly received proceeds or engaged in a transaction involving proceeds you knew to be derived from a drug-related crime, such as drug trafficking.
- That you intentionally tried to conceal the source or origin of the money.
- That the total amount of laundered money exceeds $25,000 within a 30-day period.
California Penal Code - PEN § 186.10 is a law describing the rules for approaching general money laundering activity. Under these broader regulations, the prosecution can prove that the crime of money laundering took place if it is shown that:
- You made a transaction or group of transactions that exceeded $5,000 in a 7-day time frame or exceeded $25,000 in a 30-day time frame.
- You deposited the funds or attempted to deposit the funds into a bank account.
- You had specific knowledge that the money originated from illegal activity or intended to promote illegal activity.
While that is a long list of factors and acts that must be proven in order for you to be convicted, remember that the prosecution has been working on your case since they first suspected you of laundering. They may have had months before your arrest to gather the evidence they feel they need in order to convict you. If they succeed, then your penalties are likely to be harsh.
All forms of money laundering–drug-related activities or not–are referred to as “wobbler” crimes in California. Meaning, at the prosecution’s whim, charges may be treated as a misdemeanor or a felony. Usually, what you are charged with will depend on a few factors, such as how much money was laundered, and what the money was used for. The more severe the laundering, the more severe the punishment.
Being charged with misdemeanor money laundering can result in:
- Up to one year in jail
- A fine of up to $1,000.
Alternatively, if the money laundering is treated as a felony, which will depend on why the money is being laundered, whether this is your first conviction, and how much money was involved, the penalties can be much more severe. Under a felony charge of controlled substances money laundering you may be facing:
- Up to four years in state prison
- A fine of up to $250,000
On the other hand, in the case of general money laundering, the prosecution can seek a prison sentence based on the amount of money that was laundered, with increasing prison terms if the total amount of laundered money is valued up to $2.5 million. This means that you could find yourself facing decades behind bars. Such a harsh punishment will wreak havoc on your life, leaving you without employment, a home, or even close relationships. That is why you need to work with a strong and experienced criminal defense attorney to build a skillful case against the prosecution.
The punishments for money laundering, especially if they are enhanced with drug crimes, can be incredibly harsh. If you are convicted, you may find yourself behind bars for years, as well as deeply in debt due to the excessive fines. Your best bet for avoiding as much jail time as possible is by working with an experienced money-laundering and fraud attorney, who can construct an airtight defense for you. At Werksman Jackson & Quinn LLP, we have spent years defending those facing trial in the criminal court system. Typically, a money-laundering defense will involve at least one of the following:
- You did not engage in the transaction at all
- You were unaware of the source of the money
- You were unaware of what the money was intended for
- There was no fraud: the money came from a legal source
- The officers who arrested you committed misconduct
Not every defense is going to work for your case, however. There must be evidence that your defense is true, or, at least, that what the prosecution is saying is untrue. Getting that evidence and knowing exactly where it is best used are skills that come from years of experience fighting on the behalf of those accused of serious white-collar crimes. While you have a right to a court-appointed attorney, no public defender will have the same level of experience as we at Werksman Jackson & Quinn LLP do.
At Werksman Jackson & Quinn LLP, we understand that there are unique circumstances to every case. Often times, those accused of money laundering had no knowledge that they were engaging in illegal activity, such as the bankers, accountants, and other professionals who were manipulated into laundering money from illegal activities. Furthermore, there are other instances in which clients were coerced into facilitating a money-laundering scheme under threat of danger or physical harm.
Regardless of the details, you deserve criminal defense from the ones who understand how to fight these charges better than anyone. You need a seasoned Los Angeles white collar crime defense attorney who can guide you through the complexities of your case and fight for your freedom. Contact our office at (213) 688-0460 to learn more.
Recent Case Results
- Complete Dismissal of Molestation Charges
Attorney Mark Werksman’s 29 year old client was falsely accused of molesting two neighborhood children and was subsequently charged with felony child molestation, with a significant prison sentence hanging over his head should he be convicted. Instead, at the preliminary hearing Werksman was able to convince the court to grant his client a complete dismissal of any charges.
- Decision Set Aside
Client, a college student in a faulty Title IX case, was awarded $130,000 in attorney fees.
- Probation with No Jail Time for Drug Money Laundering Charge
Wilmington man accused in New York federal court of laundering drug money through the sale of laptop computers. Mark was able to get the case transferred to federal court in Los Angeles, where he convinced the United States Attorney to reduce the charges. His client was sentenced to probation with no jail time on a misdemeanor conviction.