Ernenwein & Johnson, LLP

Understanding what money laundering is can help you avoid it

You often hear the nebulous term "money laundering," but what does it really mean?

Money laundering is a process wherein illegally-gotten cash gets turned into legitimate funds, i.e., what once was "dirty," now is washed "clean."

How it can be done

In most (but not all) cases of money laundering, there is a three-step process.

Placement involves the clandestine introduction of the ill-gotten funds into the American financial system.

Layering then takes place to move the money around in an attempt to disguise its illegal origins.

The final step is integration, as the funds re-enter the financial system in transactions that make it appear to be clean and legitimate.

Methodology of money laundering

One of the oldest and easiest ways to launder money involve use of a business where cash is mainly used for transactions. Some common examples include:

  • Laundromats
  • Tanning parlors
  • Casinos
  • Restaurants
  • Bars
  • Parking lots
  • Car washes
  • Strip clubs
  • Arcades

Lawbreakers choose these type of businesses because they have few variable costs as well as big ratios between their revenues and those costs. That makes them ideal for being used as cash dumps.

Which other methods are used?

Some fields, e.g., art markets, are quite vulnerable to being used for money laundering. The reason is that invoices can be easily manipulated and art objects or paintings can be subjectively valuated for sale. Auction houses and art galleries are also notoriously secretive about purchases and prices of sold pieces.

Your business may be vulnerable to money laundering

If you are the owner of a small business that does most of its transactions in cash, you could unwittingly have your business become involved in money laundering.

This is particularly true of owners who have little to no oversight of the day-to-day operations of the business. Your manager could be washing money through your facility and leaving you open to criminal allegations.

Acting swiftly can mitigate damage

Make no mistake — money laundering is a very serious felony. If you know or suspect that you may face these criminal allegations, you need to be proactive about your defense.

Retaining counsel prior to your arrest gives them the chance to quickly get up to speed on the case. Your California criminal defense attorney may be able to arrange for you to surrender yourself to avoid an arrest in handcuffs. They can also arrange for you to be released on bail in order to minimize the time you must spend behind bars before your case is adjudicated.

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