Money Laundering in the colloquial sense is taking “dirty” money, such as drug proceeds, and laundering it into “clean” money, such as a legitimate business. However, in the Federal criminal system, “money laundering” has a much broader definition. Although the money laundering statutes (18 U.S.C. §§ 1956-57) are extremely complex, in simple terms they prohibit several different types of “financial” transactions. For example, taking the proceeds of certain crimes (referred to as “specific unlawful activity”) and using these funds to engage in certain specified unlawful activity is prohibited. This is referred to as money laundering promotion. The law also prohibits taking criminal proceeds from specified unlawful activity and conducting a financial transaction “to conceal or disguise the nature, the location, the source, the ownership, or the control of the proceeds”. This definition fits within the classic definition of money laundering. Finally, it is unlawful to take the proceeds of specified unlawful activity to conduct a financial transaction to avoid the reporting requirements under State or Federal law. For example, there are currency transaction reporting requirements for engaging in cash transactions in excess of $10,000. It is against the law to “structure” financial transactions to avoid this $10,000 threshold.
Title 31 of the United States Code sets forth criminal offenses for failing to report certain monetary transactions, including exporting or importing in excess of $10,000 without filing the appropriate reports. This oftentimes occurs in tandem with trying to evade taxes. For example, Mr. Kuniansky represented an American businessman who was traveling to another country to deposit in a foreign bank account large sums of cash earned in his lawful business. He was subject to a random search at the airport where $300,000 was located stuffed in his underwear. Not only did this result in a criminal case, but the government filed a civil forfeiture action to forfeit to the government the $300,000 in cash.
Most often, money laundering cases are brought in conjunction with wire fraud cases or tax cases, although they may also be brought as stand-alone charges.
Mr. Kuniansky has handled numerous money laundering cases of every type imaginable. Perhaps the highest-profile of the cases was his representation of a successful businessman who was accused of receiving millions of dollars of drug money in his legitimate business. Over $1 million in cash was seized in a search of his home. The defense was that he had no knowledge of the money he received was the proceeds of drugs.