Bankers, lawyers, regulators, government officials, and other financial professionals met to discuss what they perceive as an ongoing battle against money laundering. Criminal defense lawyers in Miami have battled money laundering cases over the years both in state and federal court. While money laundering is considered to be a worldwide problem, the meeting occurred locally at the Hotel Intercontinental Miami on February 23, 2012. About 1,200 people from about 40 countries participated in the event. The event was titled FIBA Anti-Money Laundering Compliance Conference. The purpose of the conference was to discuss the Bank Secrecy Act and exchange information on bank related crimes. All financial lending institutions are required to have programs in place to curtail money laundering.
As money laundering is becoming perceived as a greater problem, a department in the Treasury bureau, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, is requiring that banks collect additional information and report suspicious activity. The network is the part of the bureau that collects and analyzes suspicious financial transactions. Proponents of the changes say that the added regulations will assist law enforcement and regulators. Other than Miami, the Mexican drug trafficking cartels have become an area of key concern for banks and regulators, alike. Mexico has restricted vendors in that country from entering transactions involving U.S. dollars. Mexican cartels are accused of smuggling U.S. dollars from the United States to Mexico with the money eventually re-crossing the border and ending up in U.S. banks.
Money laundering charges usually accompany other charges both in state and federal court. Money laundering charges can be found in informations and indictments also charging drug trafficking, mortgage fraud, Medicare fraud, securities fraud, tax fraud, mail and wire fraud. The Florida Money Laundering Act is the controlling legislation in state court. An individual can be charged with money laundering if a person knows the property involved in a financial transaction represents proceeds from some form of illegal activity and that the person also conducted a financial transaction with the proceeds with the intent to promote the carrying on of the illegal activity, or with the intent to conceal or disguise the source of the money, or to avoid financial transaction reporting requirements. The severity of the punishment depends on the amount of the property involved in the alleged money laundering.
An illegal financial transaction involving property between $300 and $20,000 is a 3rd degree felony punishable up to five years in prison. A transaction between $20,000 and $100,000.00 is a felony in the second degree and is punishable up to 15 years in prison. A transaction in excess of $100,000.00 is a 1st degree felony punishable up to 30 years in prison, the bottom of the guidelines is four years in prison. Other potential punishments include exorbitant fines in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. If the criminal punishments are not enough, the government agency involved in the investigation may seek an asset forfeiture of the tainted proceeds. A forfeiture action in state court is a separate case in civil court to be litigated apart from the criminal case.
Fighting Money Laundering a Constant Battle for Banks, Miami Herald.com, February 23, 2012.