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Money Laundering

This week's headline news (aside from the Houston Astros winning their first World Series!) featured an indictment with several charges of money laundering. Why launder money? And what is money laundering?

Typical goals of money laundering alleged by prosecutors include growing a criminal enterprise and enjoying the profits of crime without detection. In the Texas and Southwest border context, money laundering often involves physical transportation of drug proceeds from the US to destinations south of the border. Once the drug proceeds are outside the US in the form of cash, they are no longer subject to the regulations and reporting requirements of the US financial system.

Generally, money laundering involves a financial transaction or physical movement of proceeds of unlawful activity, designed to conceal the source of the proceeds or promote the unlawful activity. Money laundering can be as simple as a drug courier delivering drug money to a third party. More complex schemes involve use of the variety of transactions available through the financial system, maintaining seemingly legitimate businesses, and structured transactions designed to avoid reporting requirements, among other techniques.

Often, money laundering investigations by law enforcement involve multiple state and federal agencies who work together to review different features of a criminal enterprise: for example, a drug distribution network involving suspected gang activity may involve FBI, DEA, and IRS investigators, among others, working side by side investigating different elements of the enterprise. A review of public web pages on the US Department of Justice website demonstrates the depth and breadth of records that these investigators can and do review using subpoena power and other methods available to law enforcement. As demonstrated by the news-worthy indictments mentioned earlier, cooperating human sources are also heavily utilized by investigators to corroborate or explain what is found in the records.

Money laundering is prohibited by both Federal and Texas law. In addition to jail time, money laundering statutes allow the government in some cases to seize assets before conviction, and forfeit after conviction the property involved in or traceable to the money laundering.

If you or a loved one have been arrested or have related legal questions, call Lewis Thomas at 281-513-9880 for a free initial consultation.

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