Federal prosecutors need to show evidence of an established crime to obtain money laundering convictions. As noted by Business Insider, money laundering involves concealing funds allegedly received through unlawful activities. To reflect money laundering, three specific actions need to follow the unlawful acts.
By placing, layering and integrating money, unlawfully obtained funds appear as revenue from lawful businesses. These three activities follow an initial offense such as drug dealing or theft. Without an initial offense, prosecutors may not prove that a defendant disguised illicit profits.
Proving all three phases of money laundering
The first phase of money laundering, placing, involves depositing funds into a bank account. Banks, however, monitor transactions. A bank officer must report deposits that appear suspicious. Under the 1970 Bank Secrecy Act, deposits worth at least $10,000 require filing a report.
An alleged launderer may deposit less than $10,000 into several accounts. During the second phase of money laundering, layering, funds then move between different accounts. The transfers could obscure the source of the deposits. The final phase of money laundering, integrating, occurs when mixed funds move into the economy. An individual may then purchase expensive goods, such as real estate or securities.
Countering the allegations
Individuals facing money laundering charges may defend themselves against the allegations. By failing to show intent, for example, prosecutors may not obtain a conviction. Providing receipts of profits from legitimate businesses could counter a prosecutor’s allegations.
The U.S. Department of Justice’s website notes that entrapment may also serve as a valid defense. If an undercover government agent induced or pressured a business owner to engage in money laundering, a defendant could show a lack of intent.
If prosecutors prove defendants carried out the three required actions, money laundering charges could result in severe penalties. With a strong enough defense, however, charged individuals may avoid conviction or harsh punishments.