Money laundering is a crime defined by acts that involve attempting to evade the government's ability to trace monetary funds or to hide their origins. This crime is commonly brought against individuals who may have purchased stolen goods, or individuals who may have used financial resources to commit or aid in committing a crime.
While money laundering may seem like the stuff of a fictional crime drama, this crime is very serious. The consequences of a conviction can land a person in jail, or saddled with incredibly large fines. When facing charges of money laundering, it may be helpful to gain a better understanding of what the elements of this crime are.
In this article, our Denver Colorado criminal defense lawyers will explain:
- 1. The Legal Definition of Money Laundering in Colorado (C.R.S. § 18-5-309)
- 1.1 Definitions of Specific Terms
- 1.2 Examples of Money Laundering in Colorado
- 1.3 Federal Crimes (U.S.C. § 1956)
- 2. Penalties for Money Laundering in Colorado
- 3. Defense to Colorado Money Laundering Charges
- 4. Related Offenses
A person commits the criminal act of money laundering when:
- They engage in or attempt to engage in any financial transaction that involves money, or other objects of value that they know is the product of a criminal offense
- They transact any form of monetary instrument, or actual money with intent to promote a separate criminal act, or with the knowledge that the money is gained or representative of the proceeds from a separate criminal offense
- They intentionally conceal or disguise the nature, location, source, ownership, or control of the proceeds of a criminal offense, while knowing that the funds were the result of a criminal offense
- They avoid reporting transactions as required by federal law. 1
Financial transactions can include a number of different actions such as purchases, sales, loans, pledges, gifts, transfers, deliveries, or any other form of payment using any form of monetary instrument. A monetary instrument can be considered any form of currency, bank notes, precious metals, checks, gift cards, and even security instruments such as titles or deeds.
Some common examples of actions that can cause a person to be charged with money laundering include:
- Purchasing or receiving stolen, counterfeit, or otherwise criminally associated goods
- Failure to report certain items on a tax form
- Running money through multiple accounts to disguise the original source
- Using money to aid or compel someone to commit a criminal act
- Receiving the profits of a criminal act such as robbery or theft
Money laundering is not only a crime in Colorado but also a crime at the federal level as well. Federal law defines money laundering as conducting a financial transaction, or transporting monetary instruments under the following circumstances:
- With intent to promote unlawful activity
- With knowledge that the transaction is designed to conceal or disguise the origin or nature of funds
- With intent to avoid a transaction involved in reporting to either a state or federal authority
- With the intent to facilitate unlawful activity 2
Money laundering is considered a class 3 felony. If a person is found guilty of money laundering, they can face up to 4 to 12 years of imprisonment, and fines between $3,000 and $750,000.
If a person is charged with federal money laundering, they may face fines up to $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved in the transaction. The government will default to whatever the greater amount is. This crime is also punishable by federal imprisonment for a term of up to 20 years.
A person can be charged with the crime of money laundering under many a number of circumstances, however, the law allows for certain defenses. If a person's transactions are being monitored, police may be searching for the signs of money laundering, whether or not a person is associated with criminal activity or not.
The statute contains language stating that in order to be found guilty of this crime, a person must perform these acts knowingly. Much of the time, a person may not be aware that their actions constitute money laundering, or they may be "out of the loop," acting as a mere pawn in a greater scheme. In these cases, a person may have a valid defense against the charges.
Some other defenses to money laundering charges can include:
- You did not know you were purchasing stolen property
- You did not knowingly conduct a transaction that was the result of a criminal act
- You were not intentionally concealing or disguising the nature of the money or monetary instruments
- The money was not intended to facilitate any criminal acts
- The failure to report transactions was unintentional, or the transactions did not actually need to be reported
Money laundering can carry serious consequences, including potential jail time and a criminal record. On top of this, money laundering is often associated with criminal gang activity, which can elevate the sentencing a person faces.
Money laundering may also fall under the broader term of "racketeering" and can be related to criminal gang activity.
Call Us For Help . . .
Criminal charges should always be taken seriously and the punishments for money laundering are quite harsh. It is of utmost importance to consult with a Colorado criminal defense attorney when facing any criminal charge. Please do not hesitate to contact our office today at (303) 222-0330.
- C. R. S. § 18-5-309
- U. S. C. § 1956