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What does 'money laundering' mean?

Our readers undoubtedly know what the term "money laundering" has nothing to do with cleaning money by running it through a washing machine. However, many people may not understand specifically what is involved and how people may become accused of it. The term refers to a white collar crime that involves the process of taking money that was originally illicitly obtained and then working to make the money appear as if it came from a legitimate and legal source.

The process of money laundering involves three different stages. During the first stage, the money comes to the launderer through some type of illegal activity such as drug trafficking or illegal gambling. The launderer then takes the money and passes it through a series of complicated financial transactions that work to "clean" the money, or rather, make it appear that the money was obtained legally through a business or entity. After the money is run through the business, it then returns to the launderer in a way that makes it appear to have been obtained through legal means.

As an example, the launderer sets up an incorporated company that has no real assets and performs no actual type of service or operation. This is known as a shell company. Although the company has no real purpose other than to launder the money, when viewing the financial records of the business, it would appear that the company took in cash from a legitimate source and not through an illegal activity. According to the Cornell University law school, since beauty salons and plumbing services often deal on a cash payment system, they are often a preferred type of shell company.

If you are facing charges of money laundering, an experienced Wisconsin criminal attorney may be able to assist you by working to help establish a strong criminal defense.

Source: Cornell University Law School, "Money Laundering" Sep. 11, 2014

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