As legend has it, Al Capone needed a way to give his ill-gotten gains a veneer of legitimacy, so he bought or built a bunch of cash-only laundromats. The businesses would wash some actual clothes, but the majority of the cash flowing through these operations was not paying for any cleaning — hence the term money laundering.
While this story may or may not be true, money laundering is very real. Turning the proceeds of illicit activity into funds that can be used without raising the suspicion of regulators or tipping off law enforcement officials is a lucrative business. Lucrative but illegal. It is a crime under state and federal law.
Most money laundering involves big banks that turn a blind eye toward the origins of certain deposits or unusual wire transfers. However, Oregon prosecutors are aggressively going after suspected money laundering operations in our state, and many high cash flow businesses are being unfairly targeted. Traditional cash businesses like gas stations, restaurants, marijuana dispensaries, and beauty parlors are all potential targets of law enforcement investigations.
Attorney Michael R. Hughes steps up to defend Oregon business owners who face criminal suspicion just because they happen to have a lot of cash on hand. As a hemp farmer as well as attorney, Michael Hughes understands how frustrating it is to have your every move scrutinized, and your reputation and livelihood threatened when you are doing nothing wrong. He channels this experience into each case he takes on.
What Is Money Laundering?
Money laundering is a way to disguise the proceeds of criminal activity. Through money laundering, the proceeds of criminal activity are transformed into assets with an apparently legal source.
Oregon criminalizes knowing or believing you are taking steps to complete such a transaction or attempting to do so in ORS 164.170:
(1) A person commits the crime of laundering a monetary instrument if the person:
- (a)Knowing that the property involved in a financial transaction represents the proceeds of some form, though not necessarily which form, of unlawful activity, conducts or attempts to conduct a financial transaction that involves the proceeds of unlawful activity:
- (A)With the intent to promote the carrying on of unlawful activity; or
- (B)Knowing that the transaction is designed in whole or in part to:
- (i)Conceal or disguise the nature, location, source, ownership or control of the proceeds of unlawful activity; or
- (ii)Avoid a transaction reporting requirement under federal law;
- (b)Transports, transmits or transfers or attempts to transport, transmit or transfer a monetary instrument or funds:
- (A)With the intent to promote the carrying on of unlawful activity; or
- (B)Knowing that the monetary instrument or funds involved in the transportation, transmission or transfer represent the proceeds of some form, though not necessarily which form, of unlawful activity and knowing that the transportation, transmission or transfer is designed, in whole or in part, to:
- (i)Conceal or disguise the nature, location, source, ownership, or control of the proceeds of unlawful activity; or
- (ii)Avoid a transaction reporting requirement under federal law; or
- (c)Intentionally conducts or attempts to conduct a financial transaction involving property represented to be the proceeds of unlawful activity or property used to conduct or facilitate unlawful activity to:
- (A)Promote the carrying on of unlawful activity;
- (B)Conceal or disguise the nature, location, source, ownership or control of property believed to be the proceeds of unlawful activity; or
- (C)Avoid a transaction reporting requirement under federal law.
Note that section (c) is written so that the government can prosecute people it catches in sting operations where its operatives act like they are trying to launder money, but are actually working for the government.
Money laundering is also a federal offense. 18 U.S. Code § 1956 also defines three types of criminal conduct: domestic money laundering transactions (§ 1956(a)(1)); international money laundering transactions (§ 1956(a)(2)); and undercover “sting” money laundering transactions (§ 1956(a)(3)).
Whether it is prosecuted at the state or federal level, money laundering is a felony.
The consequences of being convicted of money laundering are quite serious. Steep fines and imprisonment are nearly impossible to escape. In general, the more money involved, the harsher the sentence.
The collateral consequences of a conviction are just as devastating. Money laundering is a fraud crime, and even being accused of such a crime carries a stigma. If convicted, you may be barred from working in certain industries, have business licenses denied, and have trouble accessing credit in the future. Even a charge will get flagged for extra scrutiny if not immediate disqualification every time someone runs a background check on you for years to come.
Putting up a strong defense is the only way to prevent a money laundering conviction from haunting you for the rest of your life. If you have been charged with money laundering, or suspect you are being investigated for it, Attorney Michael Hughes can help you fight to clear your good name.
Possible Defenses to Money Laundering
If you are accused of money laundering, you should take immediate action to defend yourself. There are several defenses to money laundering charges that experienced criminal defense attorney Michael R. Hughes can help you assert.
The first thing a business should consider is whether they can claim that they were acting in good faith. ORS 164.174 provides an exception from prosecution under Oregon’s money laundering statute for any “corporation, business, partnership, limited liability company, limited liability partnership or any similar entity, or an employee or agent of such an entity, that makes a good faith effort to comply with federal and state laws governing the entity.”
This exception is important because no Oregon business or business owner should be punished for trying to be successful, and doing everything they can to keep their doors open and customers happy.
If ORS 164.174 doesn’t apply, another defense tactic is to cast doubt on the intent of the accused. Under both Oregon and federal law, someone who is committing the crime of money laundering must want to engage in criminal activity. They must know that the actions they are taking will promote or conceal criminal activity, or help someone who has engaged in criminal activity avoid a transaction reporting requirement. If the government cannot prove intent, it cannot prove the accused was engaged in money laundering.
Attorney Michael Hughes may be able to suppress the prosecution’s evidence if the government has violated the Constitutional rights of the client to obtain the evidence.
An Attorney Who Understands Your Side
As a seasoned criminal defense attorney, Michael Hughes knows how easy it is to find yourself on the wrong side of the law, even if your intentions are good.
If you are facing money laundering charges, you need to put up a strong defense. Attorney Hughes can help you fight to clear your good name and keep the doors to your business open. Please reach out today to schedule an initial consultation.