Is Money Laundering a Federal Crime? Learn More About Money Laundering Charges and Penalties

Is money laundering a federal crime? What are the penalties for money laundering? Contact Scrofano Law for answers to these and more money laundering questions.

What Is Money Laundering and Why Is It Illegal?

Money laundering is the process of disguising criminal proceeds. It is the process of cleansing the taint from the proceeds of crime. Learn more here.

Money laundering refers to a financial transaction involving money obtained through criminal or illegal activity. Money laundering aims to take money earned through criminal activity and make it appear legitimate. Laundering refers to making dirty money “clean.”

Money laundering offenses occur when the money obtained through criminal activity is deposited in any financial institution. Spending money in a way that helps hide criminal activity is also considered money laundering.

If you or your loved one is facing money laundering charges, bear in mind that you could spend decades in federal prison if convicted, pay hundreds of dollars in fines, and possibly face seizure of your property.

These penalties could be life-changing, so you need to reach out to a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. It is crucial to find and hire an experienced and qualified criminal defense attorney who understands federal money laundering laws and how they apply to your case.

What Type of Crime Is Money Laundering?


The United States Congress Act, called the “Money Laundering Control Act of 1986”, established money laundering as a federal crime.

Money laundering offenses are considered severe and are frequently connected to organized crime or other serious crimes such as drug trafficking. Money laundering often involves a series of complex financial transactions to conceal the money’s illegal origin.

Federal and state law enforcement agencies investigating money laundering typically aim to identify the underlying crime, how the money flows, and the whole network involved in the money laundering scheme.

An undercover law enforcement officer sometimes engages in an undercover operation to investigate these offenses. The property and assets acquired with money obtained illegally can be confiscated or frozen.

Some white-collar crimes can also involve money laundering offenses. If that is the case, you need white-collar lawyers on your side who are experienced in handling all stages of the criminal investigation. They can explore your legal options and construct a criminal defense strategy to help you get your life back on track.

Federal Money Laundering Laws on Money Laundering


Federal money laundering laws can be very complex. The most prominent federal money laundering statutes are 18 U.S.C. §1956 and §1957. Both of these statutes provide elements of money laundering offenses as well as the sanctions imposed for their violations.

According to these laws, money laundering offenses are grouped into different categories, such as domestic money laundering and internal money laundering.

In general, 18 U.S.C. § 1956 criminalizes acts such as tax evasion, concealing the nature of the illegal activity, and conducting or attempting to conduct a financial transaction involving money earned from criminal activity.

The 18 U.S.C. § 1957 forbids knowingly engaging or “attempting to engage in a monetary transaction in criminally derived property of a value greater than $10,000” derived from specified unlawful activity. In other words, this statute outlaws monetary transactions “contaminated” by the origin of the property involved in the transaction.

Federal money laundering laws also make it illegal to enter into an agreement to commit money laundering offenses. That means money laundering conspiracy charges can be brought against individuals who played only a small part in the illegal activity.

Penalties for Money Laundering


Those facing money laundering charges should know that this is a severe offense under federal criminal law.

A money laundering conviction can result in fines of up to $500,000 or “twice the value of the property involved in the financial transaction, whichever is greater.”

A convicted individual could also spend up to 20 years in prison. However, the penalty can also include both – paying harsh fines and spending time in prison.


Can You Go to Jail for Money Laundering?

As with most federal law violations, the exact sentences are determined based on the circumstances of each crime. Penalties for money laundering offenses are primarily determined by the amount of money involved in the money laundering scheme.

Violating provisions of 18 U.S.C. §1956 federal law can result in a prison sentence of up to 20 years. Violation of federal law 18 U.S.C. §1957 can result in imprisonment of up to 10 years. The court can impose an alternate fine, but the fine cannot be more than twice the amount of the criminally derived property involved in financial transactions.

Is it Necessary to Have a Money Laundering Attorney?


Money laundering cases involve specialized areas of the law. To have an effective defense against these accusations, you will need a defense attorney who understands how federal anti-money laundering laws apply to your case and has experience handling federal criminal cases.

You will also likely need an experienced criminal defense attorney to be on your side if you are in any way connected with an individual accused of money laundering or have been brought in for questioning under suspicion of being involved in a money laundering scheme.

Federal criminal attorneys are often appointed to represent individuals in court since most defendants cannot afford to hire their own lawyers. Unfortunately, public defenders are often underpaid and overworked. These factors make them less aggressive in defending you compared to private attorneys, whose goal is to fight to reduce their client’s sentence and try to achieve the best possible result.

Federal law enforcement agencies are highly skilled in investigating money laundering offenses. Without knowledgeable counsel during these investigations, you could make a mistake that could cost your freedom.

So if you are facing these federal charges, reach out to Scrofano Law P.C. and their federal criminal lawyer in Washington to improve your chances of your case ending with the most favorable outcome.



Are Money Laundering Charges Serious?

Money laundering is a serious federal crime. In addition, money laundering charges are often associated with other federal crimes that involve organized crime. However, even if the evidence against you is overwhelming, you may be able to beat the charges with the expertise of a skilled federal criminal defense lawyer.


How Long Is a Money Laundering Sentence?

Being convicted on money laundering charges can result in harsh fines and up to 10 or 20 years in federal prison, depending on the money involved in the money laundering scheme and provisions of the federal law that were violated.


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