New York Money Laundering Attorney

Money laundering in the United States is a federal crime that is mostly prosecuted under the Bank Secrecy Act, 31 USC Section 5311, the Money Laundering Control Act, 18 USC Sections 1956-1957, and some other federal statutes such as the Patriot Act. Also, money laundering is prosecuted on a state level as most states have enacted anti-money laundering laws of their own.

Most money laundering cases are investigated by the FBI and sometimes by the Department of Justice Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section and the IRS Criminal Investigation section. Cases that involve money laundering in drug cases are handled by the DEA and cases that involve cross-border smuggling are handled by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

What is Money Laundering

There are several types of activities that constitute money laundering under federal law regular money laundering, international money laundering, undercover sting operations, money laundering, and knowingly spending more that $10,000 in criminal proceeds.

Basic money laundering is conducting a financial transaction with money that the person knows or should know are the proceeds of criminal activity.

International money laundering is moving money across the US borders in order to commit a crime. This includes situations where the defendant knows that the money is the proceeds of some criminal activity and the purpose of the money transfer is to hide information about the money, such as its location, source, or to avoid the reporting requirement.

Sting Operations money laundering part of the AML statue makes it a crime to conduct any transaction with any funds that are believed to be criminal proceeds, even if it was the undercover agent who represented the money as such. The transaction must be conducted with the intent to commit another crime or conceal information about the funds.

Money Spending Prohibition – it is a crime to conduct a monetary transaction of over $10,000 if you know that the funds are criminal activity proceeds.

The most efficient defense to a money laundering charge is that the defendant did not the necessary criminal intent, in other words the defendant did not know that the money involved was derived from criminal activity.

Criminal Penalties for Money Laundering

The federal Sentencing Guidelines are especially severe to defendants convicted of money laundering. Individual defendants face significant jail time, by far above the terms specified for the underlying offenses. Corporate defendants face substantial fines, often in amounts over $1 million.

As with other Guidelines provisions, the provisions for money laundering involve several factors that are used to determine base offense levels and specific offense characteristics.

Base offense levels are quite high, ranging between 17 and 23; a base offense level of 23 requires an incarceration period of between 46 and 57 months.

Specific increases in offense level depend on how much the defendant knew about the source and value of the laundered. If the defendant “knew or believed” that the laundered funds were connected to illicit drug trafficking proceeds, the base offense level is increased by three levels; proceeds of other unlawful activities also result in an increase. Likewise, if the funds are intended to be used for unlawful purposes, an increase may also ensue. If the value of the laundered funds is more than $100,000, the base offense level is also increased. A laundering scheme involving more than $1 million will result in an increase of five levels; a scheme involving over $100 million will cause an increase of thirteen levels.

However, conversely, a decrease in offense level may be available if a defendant can show (1) that he did not know or believe that the funds were proceeds of unlawful activity, or were intended to promote unlawful activity; (2) that he did not act with “reckless disregard of the source of funds”; (3) that the funds were the proceeds of “lawful activity, or were intended to promote unlawful activity”; and (4) that the funds were to be used for a “lawful purpose.”

As can be seen, sentencing on a conviction for money laundering is in and of itself a complex area, that should only be navigated with the help of competent and experienced counsel.

New York Money Laundering Defense Lawyers


Under New York law, money laundering is basically defined as a financial transaction intended to promote criminal conduct, either by hiding or disguising the proceeds or operating funds of the criminal conduct, or by avoiding legal requirements to declare the monies earned by such conduct. The amount must exceed $5,000 in order for criminal liability to be established (however, for money laundering that supports terrorism the minimum is $2,000).

There are four degrees of money laundering, each of which is a felony in New York. Differentiation between each degree depends mostly on the amount of money involved. Fourth degree money laundering must involve $5,000 or more; third degree money laundering entails $50,000 or more; second degree money laundering involves amounts of $100,000 or more; and first degree money laundering involves $1,000,000 or more.

Money laundering in support of terrorism invokes another section of the New York state money laundering laws. While the minimum amount involved is lower, the penalties are more serious. New York law defines money laundering in support of terrorism as cases where the accused knows or should have known that the funds either came from an act of terrorism or are intended for use in support of a terrorist act. A terrorist act is defined as an act designed to coerce a civilian population or government organization by murder, kidnapping, or acts of public destruction.

Penalties for money laundering under New York law range from fines (up to twice the amount of the monies involved), through forfeiture of the involved funds and imprisonment. The maximum prison sentence for fourth-degree money laundering is four years. That number rises to seven years for third-degree money laundering, to fifteen years for second-degree money laundering, and to twenty-five years for first-degree money laundering. While money laundering in support of terrorism is technically assigned the same penalties, prosecutors are more inclined to seek, and judges to impose, the maximum available sentence when terrorism is involved.

New York’s money laundering statutes do not differentiate between U.S. citizens and citizen, whether individual or corporate, of foreign countries. Therefore, U.S. prosecutors can and do try foreign citizens on money laundering charges, even if the defendants were never physically present in New York, though, in practice, this is rarely done without the cooperation of the appropriate foreign government.

If you are charged with money laundering in New York, you should be aware that you may also be vulnerable to other charges associated with involvement in a criminal organization, such as enterprise corruption. Money laundering charges can have potentially very severe consequences. You should not settle for anything less than a highly experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney at your side. Call our experienced NYC criminal defense attorneys at (212) 577-6677 to schedule an immediate consultation.

New York criminal attorneys with Joseph Potashnik and Associates PC have represented a number of individuals charged with money laundering in federal and state courts. We work with individual and corporate clients, both domestic and foreign. In all cases, we will provide a complete and competent evaluation of the facts and advise on the most efficient defense.

Our firm has over 75 years of combined experience representing clients in white-collar criminal cases across several continents. If you need to discuss a case involving money laundering charges or compliance issues, please contact our New York criminal and compliance attorneys today to set up a confidential consultation.