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18 U.S.C. § 1956 – Money laundering

The Harsh Reality of Money Laundering Charges

So, what do you do if you get hit with one of these things? A money laundering charge is no joke – it’s a serious federal offense that can land you behind bars for up to 20 years. But, take a deep breath. We’re here to guide you through this legal minefield, one step at a time.It’s simple. Every single client deserves honesty and white glove service. At Spodek Law Group, we leave no stone unturned to protect your rights and secure the best possible outcome. Our criminal defense attorneys have a well-earned reputation for tenacity and expertise in the most complex federal cases.

Understanding the Basics

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty, let’s start with the fundamentals. What exactly is money laundering? In essence, it’s the process of disguising the origins of money obtained through illegal activities, making it appear legitimate.The key federal statute governing money laundering is 18 U.S.C. § 1956. This law criminalizes four distinct types of money laundering:

  1. Promotional Money Laundering: Using illicit proceeds to promote further criminal activities.
  2. Concealment Money Laundering: Disguising the true nature, location, source, ownership, or control of illegal funds.
  3. Structuring: Breaking up transactions to evade reporting requirements.
  4. Tax Evasion: Laundering money to avoid paying taxes on illegal income.

Each of these offenses can be committed under one of three jurisdictional conditions:

  • Domestic money laundering involving financial transactions within the United States [18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(1)].
  • International money laundering involving cross-border fund transfers [18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(2)].
  • Undercover “sting” operations where law enforcement portrays the funds as illegal proceeds [18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(3)].

The Four Paths to Conviction

To secure a conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 1956, prosecutors must prove four key elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. A Financial Transaction: You conducted (or attempted) a financial transaction affecting interstate commerce.
  2. Illegal Proceeds: The transaction involved proceeds from a specified unlawful activity (e.g., drug trafficking, fraud, racketeering).
  3. Knowledge of Illegality: You knew the transaction involved proceeds from some form of illegal conduct.
  4. Illegal Intent: You intended to promote further illegal activity, conceal the source of the funds, evade reporting requirements, or avoid taxes.

Let’s break these down with some real-world examples:Financial Transaction
This element is broad, encompassing virtually any transfer or movement of funds, from cash deposits to wire transfers, purchases, or investments. Even attempting an illegal transaction can satisfy this prong.Illegal Proceeds
The money must derive from offenses specified in the statute, such as drug crimes, fraud, embezzlement, or racketeering. Mere suspicion of illegality is insufficient – prosecutors must tie the funds to a particular predicate crime.Knowledge of Illegality
You don’t need to know the specific underlying crime, but you must be aware (or willfully blind) that the money came from some illegal source. Circumstantial evidence, like suspicious banking activity or lavish spending inconsistent with your income, can establish this knowledge. 1Illegal Intent
This is often the trickiest element. Prosecutors might argue you intended to conceal illegal funds by commingling them with legitimate business income, using shell companies, or structuring cash deposits below reporting thresholds. 2 Alternatively, they could claim you aimed to promote further crimes by reinvesting dirty money into a criminal enterprise.

Severe Penalties for Severe Crimes

Convicted under 18 U.S.C. § 1956? Brace yourself, because the penalties are severe:

  • Up to 20 years in federal prison
  • Fines up to $500,000 or twice the value of the laundered funds (whichever is greater)
  • Potential civil penalties of $10,000 per violation
  • Forfeiture of all property involved in or traceable to the money laundering scheme

And that’s just the start. You could face additional charges for conspiracy, tax evasion, or the underlying crimes that generated the illegal proceeds. 3The precise sentence hinges on multiple factors, including:

Christine Twomey
Christine Twomey
2024-03-21
Just had my Divorce case settled 2 months ago after having a horrible experience with another firm. I couldn’t be happier with Claire Banks and Elizabeth Garvey with their outstanding professionalism in doing so with Spodek Law Group. Any time I needed questions answered they were always prompt in doing so with all my uncertainties after 30 yrs of marriage.I feel from the bottom of my heart you will NOT be disappointed with either one. Thanks a million.
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Brendan huisman
2024-03-18
Alex Zhik contacted me almost immediately when I reached out to Spodek for a consultation and was able to effectively communicate the path forward/consequences of my legal issue. I immediately agreed to hire Alex for his services and did not regret my choice. He was able to cover my case in court (with 1 day notice) and not only was he able to push my case down, he carefully negotiated a dismissal of the charge altogether. I highly recommend Spodek, and more specifically, Alex Zhik for all of your legal issues. Thanks guys!
Guerline Menard
Guerline Menard
2024-03-18
Thanks again Spodek law firm, particularly Esq Claire Banks who stood right there with us up to the finish line. Attached photos taken right outside of the court building and the smile on our faces represented victory, a breath of fresh air and satisfaction. We are very happy that this is over and we can move on with our lives. Thanks Spodek law 🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙌🏼❤️
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Keisha Parris
2024-03-15
Believe every single review here about Alex Z!! From our initial consultation, it was evident that Alex possessed a profound understanding of criminal law and a fierce dedication to his clients rights. Throughout the entirety of my case, Alex exhibited unparalleled professionalism and unwavering commitment. What sets Alex apart is not only his legal expertise but also his genuine compassion for his clients. He took the time to thoroughly explain my case, alleviating any concerns I had along the way. His exact words were “I’m not worried about it”. His unwavering support and guidance were invaluable throughout the entire process. I am immensely grateful for Alex's exceptional legal representation and wholeheartedly recommend his services to anyone in need of a skilled criminal defense attorney. Alex Z is not just a lawyer; he is a beacon of hope for those navigating the complexities of the legal system. If you find yourself in need of a dedicated and competent legal advocate, look no further than Alex Z.
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Taïko Beauty
2024-03-15
I don’t know where to start, I can write a novel about this firm, but one thing I will say is that having my best interest was their main priority since the beginning of my case which was back in Winter 2019. Miss Claire Banks, one of the best Attorneys in the firm represented me very well and was very professional, respectful, and truthful. Not once did she leave me in the dark, in fact she presented all options and routes that could possibly be considered for my case and she reinsured me that no matter what I decided to do, her and the team will have my back and that’s exactly what happened. Not only will I be liberated from this case, also, I will enjoy my freedom and continue to be a mother to my first born son and will have no restrictions with accomplishing my goals in life. Now that’s what I call victory!! I thank the Lord, My mother, Claire, and the Spodek team for standing by me and fighting with me. Words can’t describe how grateful I am to have the opportunity to work with this team. I’m very satisfied, very pleased with their performance, their hard work, and their diligence. Thank you team!
Anthony Williams
Anthony Williams
2024-03-12
Hey, how you guys doing? Good afternoon my name is Anthony Williams I just want to give a great shout out to the team of. Spodek law group. It is such a honor to use them and to use their assistance through this whole case from start to finish. They did everything that they said they was gonna do and if it ever comes down to it, if I ever have to use them again, hands-down they will be the first law office at the top of my list, thank you guys so much. It was a pleasure having you guys by my side so if you guys ever need them, do not hesitate to pick up the phone and give them a call.
Loveth Okpedo
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2024-03-12
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Bee L
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2024-02-28
Amazing experience with Spodek! Very professional lawyers who take your case seriously. They treated me with respect, were always available, and answered any and all questions. They were able to help me very successfully and removed a huge stress. Highly recommend.
divesh patel
divesh patel
2024-02-24
I can't recommend Alex Zhik and Spodek Law Firm highly enough for their exceptional legal representation and personal mentorship. From the moment I engaged their services in October 2022, Alex took the time to understand my case thoroughly and provided guidance every step of the way. Alex's dedication to my case went above and beyond my expectations. His expertise, attention to detail, and commitment to achieving the best possible outcome were evident throughout the entire process. He took the time to mentor me, ensuring I understood the legal complexities involved to make informed decisions. Alex is the kind of guy you would want to have a beer with and has made a meaningful impact on me. I also want to acknowledge Todd Spodek, the leader of the firm, who played a crucial role in my case. His leadership and support bolstered the efforts of Alex, and his involvement highlighted the firm's commitment to excellence. Thanks to Alex Zhik and Todd Spodek, I achieved the outcome I desired, and I am incredibly grateful for their professionalism, expertise, and genuine care. If you're in need of legal representation, look no further than this outstanding team.
  • The amount of money laundered
  • Your role in the scheme (leader, manager, minor player)
  • Whether you abused a position of trust
  • Your criminal history
  • Acceptance of responsibility

Judges have significant discretion, but the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines treat money laundering harshly, often resulting in lengthy prison terms even for first-time offenders. 4

An Ounce of Prevention: Compliance is Key

Let’s be real – nobody wants to end up in the crosshairs of a federal money laundering investigation. The best defense is a robust compliance program to prevent illicit funds from entering your business or financial institution.At a minimum, you should:

  • Implement rigorous Know Your Customer (KYC) protocols to verify client identities and vet their funds’ sources.
  • Conduct enhanced due diligence on high-risk clients (e.g., politically exposed persons, cash-intensive businesses).
  • Monitor transactions for red flags like structuring, shell company activity, or unexplained fund movements.
  • Maintain comprehensive records and promptly file Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) when appropriate.
  • Train employees to identify money laundering typologies and escalate concerns.
  • Designate a qualified compliance officer to oversee your anti-money laundering (AML) program.

Compliance is a complex, ongoing process – but it’s far preferable to the alternative of potential criminal liability. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when it comes to money laundering risks. 5

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