Under Texas Penal Code § 34.02 “Money Laundering” is defined as knowingly having an interest in, concealing, transferring, transporting or facilitating in any way a transaction involving the proceeds of a criminal activity. The offense could also involve investing proceeds, receiving them, spending them or financing them.
Criminal activity means involvement in any offense classified as a felony. For example, if a person generates money from distributing drugs and that person or his or her spouse then invests the illegal money, it could be considered money laundering.
Texas law does not require that the defendant knows about the criminal activity that generated the money; it only requires that he or she knows the money was obtained through illegal means.
The federal charge of money laundering is very broad and allows the government to seize any assets or property it can connect, in a financial way, to a specified criminal activity. It is a tool commonly used by the government to arrest individuals and organizations they suspect are involved in larger criminal activity, including the illegal drug trade. Money laundering can also be added to other primary charges such as: mail fraud, wire fraud or other white collar crimes.
In order to prove that you are guilty of money laundering, the prosecutor must prove that you were aware of the criminal nature of the activity from which the proceeds were obtained. If the government cannot prove that you had some knowledge of the fact that the money was coming from some type of illegal activity, you cannot be convicted.
Penalties for Money Laundering
Money laundering is a felony offense, no matter how much money is involved. However, the amount can determine the degree of the felony and the corresponding penalties:
- Laundering between $1,500 and $20,000 is a state jail felony with a possible sentence of $10,000 in fines and between 180 days and 2 years in jail;
- Laundering between $20,000 and $100,000 is a third degree felony with a possible sentence of $10,000 fines and between 2 and 10 years in prison;
- Laundering between $100,000 and $200,000 is a second degree felony with a possible sentence of $10,000 in fines and imprisonment lasting between 2 and 20 years; and
- Laundering more than $100,000 is a first degree felony with a possible sentence of $10,000 in fines and between 5 and 99 years or life in prison.
If proceeds of criminal activity are related to one scheme or continuing course of conduct, whether from the same or several sources, the conduct may be considered as one offense and the value of the proceeds aggregated in determining the classification of the offense.
Federal charges are often more severe than ordinary state criminal charges and require presentation before a federal judge. Federal courts differ from state courts in a number of ways, but most often in the terms of the resources that are available to investigate the charges. The main difference between federal and state penalties is often the amount of the fine. Fines for money laundering are often twice the value of the funds involved, while Texas fines for felonies are capped at $10,000, regardless of the funds at issue.
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Many times the government makes loose claims about the amount made in the unlawful activity. Paul Doyle will never just take the government’s word on the amount claimed but challenges the government to prove every single dollar it claims was generated from the unlawful activity.