Money laundering is a process where one uses the proceeds gained from illicit activities and disguises these proceeds to make them appear legal.
Under the law, four elements must be proven to obtain a conviction for money laundering: 1) knowledge, 2) the existence of proceeds derived from a specified unlawful activity, 3) a financial transaction, and 4) intent.
The first element of ‘knowledge’ requires a person to actually know that the money was derived from an illegal source. In the second element, ‘specified unlawful activity’ includes a long list of crimes in federal and state statutes. Within the third element, a ‘financial transaction’ is not limited to transaction between a financial institution, and can also be a transaction between two people. The fourth element requires ‘intent’, and can be broadened to mean intention to promote, disguise, or avoid reporting a money laundering scheme.
Money laundering can take place within a locality or through international bank accounts. Money laundering schemes often have multiple transactions where money is transferred through various institutions and entities.
Penalties for money laundering can be criminal penalties or civil sanctions. Criminal penalties can consist of imprisonment, fines or forfeiture, and can vary on the type of offense.