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Money Laundering Forfeitures: Landmark Structuring Case Provides Guidance

NCJ Number
D C Semesky Jr; C M Taylor
Date Published
June 1995
12 pages
Publication Series
In Ratzlaf v. United States, 1994 WL 4189, 1994 U.S. Lexis (U.S., January 11, 1994), the U.S. Supreme Court clarified the elements of the Federal structuring offense, 31 U.S.C., Sec. 5324; the opinion gives law enforcement officers useful direction for targeting cases, gathering evidence, anticipating defenses, and evaluating the likelihood of prevailing against a claimant in seizure and forfeiture matters.
"Structuring" means breaking transactions larger than $10,000 into smaller increments by making multiple deposits or withdrawals or by buying cashiers' checks, money orders, or other monetary instruments for the express purpose of evading the reporting requirements. These reports, required by the Bank Secrecy Act and the Internal Revenue Code, must be filed with the Internal Revenue Service every time a transaction that involves more than $10,000 in cash is conducted with a financial institution. To be convicted of structuring, an individual must knowingly and willfully transact below the $10,000 threshold level, intending to evade the reporting requirements. Based on the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in "Ratzlaf," this article provides guidelines for evidence collection and prosecutorial preparation in a structuring case. The civil forfeiture aspect of structuring is also discussed. This issue of the BJA Bulletin also summarizes recent forfeiture-related decisions in 17 State courts.

Date Published: June 1, 1995