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Money Laundering

NCJ Number
American Criminal Law Review Volume: 49 Issue: 2 Dated: Spring 2012 Pages: 1011-1036
Genny Ngai
Date Published
26 pages
This article discusses the elements of the Money Laundering Control Act, the legal defenses that may be used in answering charges of money laundering, and the criminal and civil penalties if convicted.
Money laundering is "the process by which one conceals the existence, illegal source, or illegal application of income and then disguises that income to make it appear legitimate." Laundering criminally derived proceeds can be a lucrative and sophisticated business and is an indispensable element of organized criminal activities. In recognition of this pervasive problem, Congress passed the Money Laundering Control Act (the Act) of 1986, which created liability for any individual who conducts a monetary transaction knowing that the funds were derived through unlawful activity. The Act's expansive definition of "money laundering" allows it to reach the proceeds of a broad range of illicit activities. One of the primary purposes of the Act is to bar all "monetary transactions" in "criminally derived property" that exceed $10,000. In achieving this purpose, the Act targets transactions conducted through financial institutions and reaches a broad range of routine commercial transactions that affect commerce. One section of the article presents an overview of the constitutional theories used to attack prosecutions under the Act. Three theories have been used to attack prosecutions under the Act: constitutional vagueness, double jeopardy, and constitutional impermissibility; however, these defenses have not been successful. Convictions under the Act carry both civil and criminal penalties. The maximum civil penalty is $10,000 per offense. The criminal penalties consist of imprisonment, fines, and/or forfeiture. 175 notes