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NY Penal Law § 470.20: Money Laundering in the First Degree

July 2, 2020 Federal Criminal Attorneys

In order to hide proceeds from criminal activity such as drug dealing, gambling, fraud or theft, those involved in such criminal activity sometimes take steps to make it appear as if the money was obtained through legal activities. This is called money laundering. Money laundering is regularly used not only by those involved in drug trafficking, illegal gambling, and prostitution, but elected officials have even been known to be involved in money laundering in an effort to hide the true source of campaign funds. There are 8 different money laundering crimes in New York. Money laundering in the first degree is one of the 2 most serious money laundering offenses in the New York criminal code. Under New York Penal Law § 470.20 you could be prosecuted for money laundering in the first degree if you:

  • Are aware that a financial transaction represents the proceeds of criminal conduct and you:
    • Carry out at least one financial transaction with intent to carry on the criminal activity or with intent to violate federal tax legislation,
    • Carry out at least one financial transaction with the awareness that it was designed to hide the nature, location or control of the criminal activity
    • Carry out at least one financial transaction that is designed to avoid necessary transaction reporting and the amount of the transaction or transactions is greater than $500,000
  • Perform at least one financial transaction that:
    • Involves property that is the proceeds of criminal activity or property that was used to carry out or facilitate criminal activity with intent to promote that activity,
    • Conceal the nature, location or control of the activity or 
    • Avoid transaction reporting and the transaction or transactions is greater than $1,000,000.

For Example

Bobby was a drug dealer.  He also managed a string of restaurants. Calvin worked for Bobby, aiding him in distributing the drugs.  He also operated a restaurant supply store. Every time Calvin needed to make a purchase from Bobby, Bobby compensated Calvin an inflated amount that would also cover the additional “services” that Bobby performed for Calvin. Among other crimes, Bobby could get prosecuted for a money laundering charge.

Offenses that are Related

Money laundering in the fourth degree: New York Penal Law § 470.05

Money laundering in the third degree: New York Penal Law § 470.10

Money laundering in the second degree: New York Penal Law § 470.15

Money laundering in support of terrorism in the fourth degree: New York Penal Code § 470.21

Money laundering in support of terrorism in the third degree: New York Penal Law § 470.22

Money laundering in support of terrorism in the second degree: New York Penal Law § 470.23

Money laundering in support of terrorism in the first degree: New York Penal Law § 470.24

Possible Defenses

Frequently, the person or organization carrying out the money laundering is not aware that the money was gained from criminal conduct. For example, if an individual who is involved in criminal conduct opens a number of bank accounts in order to conceal the total amount of money being deposited, neither the banks nor their employees can be convicted of money laundering if they had no clue that the individual making the deposits got the money from criminal activity.

The Sentence

Money laundering in the first degree is categorized as a class B felony. If you get  convicted of this crime, your sentence could include up to 25 years in prison and 5 years of probation. In addition, New York Penal Law § 470.25 states that you would also be obligated to pay a fine of up to double  the amount of money involved in the money laundering scheme.

 

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