Florida Businesses Investigated for Money Laundering
In a money laundering scheme, individuals take money obtained through illegal activity and make it appear legitimate through business activities and financial transactions. According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the goal of the activity is to make the funds appear to come from a legitimate source. The agency plays a key role in the investigation of these crimes because financial records are vital to successful prosecutions. In addition, laundered money is generally untaxed income.
Numerous Florida businesses have recently become the target of a federal money laundering as the U.S. Treasury Department placed new reporting requirements on Miami-area electronics exporters. According to the Miami New Times, the agency’s Financial Crime Enforcement Network is requiring about 700 businesses to report any cash transfers over $3,000. This reportedly differs from the usual $10,000 reporting requirement. In addition, each business must provide adequate proof that the customer is known and identifiable with legitimate documents.
The federal agency’s press release reads in part, “Law enforcement investigations reveal that many of these businesses are exploited as part of sophisticated trade-based money laundering schemes in which drug proceeds in the United States are converted into goods that are shipped to South America and sold for local currency, which is ultimately transferred to drug cartels.” This reportedly suggests that many of these business owners are unaware that their services are being used in connection with these schemes.
How It Works
As described in news reports, the schemes generally work as follows:
- A drug trafficker smuggles drugs into the country and coordinates their sale for cash;
- The trafficker uses that money to purchase a large quantity of electronics;
- The electronics are shipped out of the country for cash; and
- The profit appears to originate from the sale of the electronics, instead of the original drug sales.
The Law in Florida
Florida statute makes it illegal to knowingly conduct a financial transaction that involves the proceeds of unlawful activity. This means that the individual involved knew or should have reasonably known the origin of the funds involved. It is also unlawful to transport illegally earned funds, transport goods purchased with illegally earned funds, or attempt to disguise their origin.
The penalties for money laundering are potentially serious.
- If the value of the transaction falls between $300 and $20,000, the offense is classified as a third degree felony, with possible imprisonment up to five years;
- If the value of the transaction falls between $20,000 and $100,000, the offense is classified as a second degree felony, with possible imprisonment up to 15 years; and
- If the value of the transaction exceeds $100,000, the offense is classified as a first degree felony, with possible imprisonment up to 30 years.
These stiff penalties exemplify the seriousness of a money laundering charge and the need for a knowledgeable attorney. To convict on this crime, the prosecution must prove knowledge of the money’s origin, and a capable attorney can create adequate doubt about this necessary element.
If you or a loved one is facing money laundering charges within the state of Florida, we are prepared to provide you with an aggressive defense. Contact Ratzan & Faccidomo, LLC today at (305) 330-3905 for a confidential and free consultation.