Although this blog has talked about it before, there may be some confusions in the mind of Cincinnati, Ohio, residents as to what exactly money laundering is.
It is a term often thrown around in drug prosecutions, prosecutions relating to mob or gang activity and the like, but even those facing federal charges related to money laundering might not understand fully what precisely they are being accused of.
There is no general obligation to be totally forthcoming about the source of one's income or assets, and a person can sometimes legally try to conceal the origin of funds. Frequently, there are good business reasons to do so.
However, a person may not use an unlawful gain, such as drug money, or handle it in such a way so as to try to disguise where the money came from or under what circumstances it was changing hands. Likewise, one cannot knowingly construct financial transactions so as to skirt around mandatory reporting requirements.
In general, a person who is using money for criminal activity has to do so in plain view, without trying to clean up or launder the paper trail to make the funds look like they were always legitimate.
Federal penalties for money laundering can be severe. For example, a person can wind up going to jail for up to 20 years, as well as being forced to pay a very hefty fine which can be up to twice the funds that were originally laundered.
As with embezzlement and other charges related to financial transactions, a strong defense may be needed to accusations of money laundering. Oftentimes, what prosecutors make out to be a crime is really negligence or a case of bad optics.