03 Oct 23

St. Petersburg Money Laundering Charges: Concealing Criminal Funds

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Last Updated on: 3rd November 2023, 07:12 pm

St. Petersburg Money Laundering Charges: Concealing Criminal Funds

Money laundering involves concealing the source of illegally obtained money to make it appear legitimate. In St. Petersburg, Florida, money laundering charges are filed under both state and federal laws, with penalties ranging from fines to lengthy prison sentences depending on the circumstances of the case.

Florida Money Laundering Laws

Under Florida law, money laundering occurs when someone conducts a financial transaction knowing the funds involved are the proceeds of unlawful activity, with the intent to promote the carrying on of the unlawful activity or to conceal the nature, source, or ownership of the funds
Money laundering is a first-degree felony in Florida punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a $10,000 fine
. The state defines unlawful activity broadly to include any felony violation of state or federal law. This means money laundering charges can arise in connection with many types of underlying criminal offenses, including drug trafficking, fraud, theft, and more.
Some examples of money laundering activities that could lead to charges include
Depositing cash from illegal activities into a bank account
Transferring illegally obtained money between accounts or through wire transfers
Purchasing assets like cars, boats, real estate or jewelry with dirty money
Structuring transactions to avoid reporting requirements
Mixing legal and illegal money through businesses to obscure the source

Federal Anti-Money Laundering Laws

Money laundering is also a federal crime under the Money Laundering Control Act. Like Florida law, federal statutes prohibit financial transactions involving proceeds from a known illegal source
Potential penalties under federal law depend on the amount of money involved:
Up to $500,000 – Up to 10 years in prison
$500,000 to $1 million – Up to 20 years in prison
Over $1 million – Up to 20 years in prison
Federal money laundering charges often accompany cases involving federal crimes like bank fraud, tax evasion, public corruption, and organized crime. The complex investigations involved mean these cases generally take significant time and resources for federal agencies like the FBI, IRS, or Department of Justice to pursue

Recent St. Petersburg Money Laundering Cases

Here are some examples of recent money laundering prosecutions in St. Petersburg:
In June 2022, a St. Petersburg man was sentenced to over 5 years in prison for laundering nearly $1 million that an attorney stole from clients. The man helped the attorney conceal the source of funds through real estate transactions, shell companies, and funneling money through various accounts
In May 2022, two St. Petersburg residents pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering in a scheme involving stolen credit card numbers and counterfeit cards. They laundered over $150,000 through different bank accounts
In February 2022, a St. Petersburg man was sentenced to 6 years in prison for filing false tax refund claims with the IRS and then laundering over $6 million of the proceeds to purchase luxury vehicles and a waterfront mansion.
In June 2021, 15 people in the Tampa Bay area were charged with money laundering and racketeering in a case involving illegal gambling machines installed in convenience stores and bars.

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How Prosecutors Prove Money Laundering

To convict someone of money laundering, prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:
The funds involved were proceeds of illegal activity
The defendant conducted a financial transaction with knowledge the money was from illegal activity
The defendant intended to conceal the source of the funds, promote illegal activity, or avoid reporting requirements
Prosecutors rely on financial records, surveillance, informants, and other evidence to establish a connection between the allegedly laundered money and specific unlawful activity.
Defense attorneys may argue the defendant did not actually know the source of the money was illegal. But willful blindness to obvious warning signs will not avoid conviction. Prosecutors can use circumstantial evidence about what the defendant must have known to prove intent and knowledge.

Defenses to Money Laundering Charges

There are several possible defenses in money laundering cases:
No unlawful activity: The money did not actually come from illegal activity. This may apply when the charges rely on informants who lack credibility or if the alleged predicate crime did not occur.
No knowledge: The defendant did not know the funds were from illegal activity and had no reasonable way to determine their source. This is difficult to prove if there are red flags about the money.
No intent: The defendant did not intend to conceal illegal activity or avoid reporting requirements through transactions. There may have been legitimate reasons for moving the money.
Entrapment: Government agents improperly induced the defendant into committing money laundering. A valid entrapment defense requires evidence of persuasion or coercion by officials.
Duress: The defendant only engaged in money laundering due to threats of harm. This is not an easy defense but may apply in unusual cases.
Statute of limitations: The alleged criminal transactions occurred beyond the statute of limitations for money laundering charges. There is generally a 5-year statute under federal law.

Sentencing Factors in Money Laundering Cases

Judges consider many factors at sentencing for money laundering convictions, including:
Defendant’s role in the offense
Use of sophisticated schemes
Value of laundered funds
Harms caused by enabling criminal activity
Acceptance of responsibility
Criminal history
Assistance to prosecutors
Family ties and responsibilities
Mental health and addiction issues
Cooperation with prosecutors through a plea agreement and showing remorse may help reduce potential penalties. But money laundering sentences still tend to be stiff given the seriousness of the crime.

Hiring an Experienced White Collar Crime Attorney

Facing money laundering charges in St. Petersburg can be extremely serious, with your freedom, finances, and reputation at stake. Having an experienced white collar crime defense lawyer on your side can make all the difference.
Do not say anything to investigators without counsel present. An attorney can evaluate the strength of the government’s case, advise you on possible defenses, and protect your rights at every stage. This provides the best chance at an acquittal or minimizing penalties if convicted.