Most in New York are likely familiar with the term "money laundering" and might even have a general understanding of that it means: taking supposedly "dirty" money and making it appear clean. "Dirty money" is typically that which is gained unlawfully, and indeed, it is illegal to try and attempt to conceal its origin by making it appear as though one secured it through legitimate means. Yet the exact details of what activity actually qualifies as money laundering might be unknown to most.
The federal jury instructions issued by the U.S. Department of Justice define money laundering as the attempt to conduct financial transactions or transfers (both to account inside or outside the U.S.) with money known to be the proceeds of illegal activity for any of the following purposes:
- To promote or proliferate further unlawful activity
- To avoid incurring tax liabilities
- To disguise the source or true ownership of the assets in question
- To avoid reporting a transaction as required by federal or state law
Of course, as is the case with most criminal activity, prosecutors must demonstrate that one accused of money laundering actually had the specific intent to engage in it. According to the U.S. Attorney's Criminal Resource Manual, that includes proving that a defendant was indeed aware that funds being dealt with where obtained illegally. Interestingly, the law also states that one need not know the exact details of the alleged crime that generated the money in question in order to be found guilty of money laundering. It also only needs to be proven that one either initiated, participated in or concluded a transaction involving unlawfully obtained funds to have this charge brought against him or her.