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Why innocent people might face money laundering charges

On Behalf of | Jun 10, 2024 | Criminal Defense

Money laundering is a very serious white-collar crime. It entails intentionally manipulating financial records to make illegitimate funds gained through illegal activity appear to be lawful income. After all, the capital generated through reselling stolen goods or drug trafficking is usually cash. For people to use those funds for any significant purposes, they have to deposit the funds into bank accounts or make them look like legitimate income.

Money laundering often involves individuals who already play another role in a broader criminal scheme. Those working to traffic drugs often have systems in place to make their capital look legitimate. However, not everyone accused of financial misconduct is actually a criminal. Sometimes, people facing allegations of money laundering simply have unusual business practices or accounting habits that look suspect to those who don’t understand.

Why might innocent professionals face accusations of money laundering?

Unusual retail practices

Money laundering often involves a retail business. Reporting purchases that did not occur, providing money transfer services or selling prepaid cards could all potentially play a role in money laundering schemes. Uninvolved managers and owners could face accusations of involvement in criminal activity because criminals patronize their businesses using cash obtained through criminal activity. What looks like involvement in money laundering might just be a case of someone failing to notice criminal activity on the part of others.

Questionable accounting practices

Perhaps someone runs two separate companies and does not maintain fully separate finances the way that they likely should. Maybe they offer in-house financing and accept cash payments from clients. There are many financial practices that might look like criminal activity to investigators or regulatory authorities. Seeing misconduct frequently can make truly innocent but unusual business practices look criminal in some cases. Confirmation bias means that people tend to see what they expect to find, which might be money laundering in some cases.

Accountants, business owners and even retail managers could find themselves accused of money laundering despite having no intentional involvement in criminal activity. Those worried about white-collar criminal charges often need to review the evidence against them very carefully with the assistance of a skilled legal team. Developing a criminal defense strategy for white-collar criminal charges often begins with an understanding of the state’s case. Those who learn about what made them look like a money launderer to others can develop a defense that includes explaining their economic activity to the courts.