U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Money Laundering

NCJ Number
American Criminal Law Review Volume: 41 Issue: 2 Dated: Spring 2004 Pages: 887-909
Justin Serafini
Date Published
23 pages
This article presents the elements of the offenses, the defenses, and the penalties associated with the Federal Money Laundering Control Act of 1986 (MLCA).
The MLCA holds liable any individual who conducts a monetary transaction knowing that the funds were obtained through unlawful activity. One of the primary purposes of the MLCA is to bar all "monetary transactions" in "criminally derived property" that exceed $10,000. The act intends to dissuade people from engaging in even ordinary commercial transactions with people suspected of criminal activity. Still, the government must prove four elements to obtain a conviction under the act: knowledge, the existence of proceeds derived from a specified unlawful activity, a financial transaction, and intent. The foundation for a violation is the occurrence of a "financial transaction," which is not limited to transactions with banking or financial institutions. Virtually any exchange of money between two parties constitutes a financial transaction subject to criminal prosecution, provided that the transaction has a minimal effect on interstate commerce and satisfies at least one of the four intent requirements. Three theories that have been used to attack prosecutions under the Money Laundering Act are constitutional vagueness, double jeopardy, and impermissibility of the act. These defenses, however, have not been persuasive in the courts. The criminal penalties provided under the act consist of imprisonment, fines, and forfeiture, which vary with the offense type. The maximum criminal penalties are imprisonment for 20 years and a fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the monetary instruments of funds laundered, or both. 152 footnotes


No download available