Chances are that you’ve either heard of infamous criminals or gangs who engaged in money laundering or you’ve sat through entertainment (like mob shows or movies) that depicts it. Either way, a lot of people have heard of laundering money, but it still appears as a mystery to most. According to California Penal Code 186.10 PC, conducting banking business with money involved in criminal activity is illegal.
Elements of the Crime
Generally speaking, what is money laundering? When money is obtained fraudulently through some criminal activity, there are several problems. First, that money will be in cash and presenting a large stream of cash without a credible job to a bank sets off red flags. Furthermore, the bills can be flagged as having been part of criminal activity by the IRS, making it impossible to use them. Therefore, through a scheme, the money has to be “cleaned” so that the value of the money can be used.
According to the law, money laundering occurs when the defendant carries out a transaction at a banking institution. The transaction does not have to be just depositing money, but also withdrawing those funds. Furthermore, such a massive stream of money sets off alarm bells, which is why the defendant would have to make transactions that were worth a certain amount of dollars within different time periods. These are usually over thousands to millions of dollars. Finally, these funds must have been obtained by, or been a part of, criminal activity and can still be used for further crimes.
How the prosecution decides to move forward with the charge depends on both the defendant’s past criminal history and the context of the crime. A case involving $10,000 of laundered money can have different penalties than the multi-million-dollar money-laundering scheme of a prominent organized crime unit. As such, the crime is a wobbler – meaning it can be a misdemeanor or a felony. While a felony requires up to three years in jail, the misdemeanor only requires up to one year. Paying fines will also depend on the money laundered.