The Florida legislature’s intent in creating the anti-money laundering statutes is to deter the benefit of crime by proving for increased punishment for the laundering of money related to criminal activity.
Florida’s money laundering laws target organizations and individuals using financial transactions to hide the proceeds of unlawful activities. The Money Laundering statute in Florida is used to address a variety of crimes including:
- drug trafficking;
- organized crime;
- white collar crime;
- child exploitation; and
- human trafficking.
Quite simply, the definition of money laundering involves taking the profits from crime and moving them in a prohibited manner. Under Florida’s definition of money laundering, a criminal or a person acting on their behalf generates proceeds in the form of money or property as a result of committing a crime designated as a specified unlawful activity.
In these prosecutions, the State will allege that the criminal or a person acting on their behalf moved that money through “concealment.” Concealment involves moving money in an attempt to disguise the ownership, source, location, or nature of the money or property. In other cases, the protection will allege that the person used a “promotion” form of money laundering to reinvest the money in their criminal activities.
Attorneys for Money Laundering Crimes in Broward County, FL
Many of our clients first contact us because the assets in their bank were frozen. In other cases, the person first learns about the criminal investigation into money laundering because a search warrant is served at their home or business. If you become the target of an investigation into money laundering then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in Fort Lauderdale, FL, at Meltzer & Bell.
Our attorneys represent clients prosecuted for crimes at the Broward County Judicial Complex located at 201 Southeast 6th Street in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. We also represent clients in cases prosecuted at the North Regional Courthouse in Deerfield Beach, the West Regional Courthouse in Plantation, and the South Regional Courthouse in Hollywood, FL.
Our experienced criminal defense attorneys represent clients in a variety of economic crimes prosecuted by the State Attorney’s Office in Broward County, FL. Call (754) 755-8554 today to discuss your case during a free and completely confidential consultation.
Penalties for Money Laundering in Florida
The charge of money laundering can be charged as a first, second and third degree felony. The severity of the charge depends on the amount of money or funds laundered.
Money laundering is based on a consecutive twelve (12) month period. Under this classification system, each twelve month period can be charged as a separate money laundering charge.
Money Laundering Charged as a Third Degree Felony
A third degree felony is charged when the financial transaction exceeds $300 but is less than $20,000 in any 12-month period. When charged as a third degree felony, money laundering is a level seven offense with 56 points on the Criminal Punishment Code Scoresheet. These points require 21 months as the lowest permissible prison sentence.
Money Laundering Charged as a Second Degree Felony
A second degree felony is charged when the financial transaction exceeds $20,000 but is less than $100,000 in any 12-month period. When charged as a second degree felony, money laundering is a level eight offense with 74 points on the scoresheet. These points require a 34.5 months as the lowest permissible prison sentence.
Money Laundering Charged as a First Degree Felony
A first degree felony is charged with the financial transaction exceeds $100,000 in any 12-month period. When charged as a first degree felony, money laundering is a level nine offense with 92 points on the scoresheet. These points require 48 months as the lowest permissible prison sentence.
Florida’s Money Laundering Statute at §896.101 F.S.
Florida’s Money Laundering statute, §896.101 Fla. Stat., provides:
(3)(a) it is unlawful for a person knowing that the property involved in a financial transaction represents the proceeds of some form of unlawful activity, to conduct or attempt to conduct such a financial transaction which in fact involves the proceeds of specified unlawful activity
1. With the intent to promote the carrying on of specific unlawful activity; or
2. Knowing that the transaction is designed in whole or in part:
a. To conceal or disguise the nature, the location, the source, the ownership, or the control of the proceeds of specified unlawful activity; or b. To avoid a transaction reporting requirement or money transmitters’ registration requirement under state law.
The term “financial transaction” is defined as a transaction involving the movement of funds by wire or other means. The funds include one or more monetary instruments that affect commerce. The most common types of transactions can include a purchase, sale, delivery, transfer, loan, gift, or pledge. For a financial institution, the transaction can include a deposit, withdrawal, transfer between accounts, or exchange of currency.
In order for the prosecutor to allege money laundering in the State of Florida, the prosecutor must prove that the person knew the property involved in the transaction represented proceeds from some form, though not necessarily which form, of activity that constitutes a felony under state or federal law, or any of the specified crimes defined in Fla. Stat. §895.02 for “Racketeering Activity.”
Specified Unlawful Activity in Money Laundering Cases in Florida
Section 896.101(2)(g) of the Florida Statutes defines a “specified unlawful activity” as “racketeering activity.” Under § 895.02(1)(a)(32), Fla. Stat., “racketeering activity” includes committing, attempting, or conspiring to commit a chargeable crime “relating to theft, robbery, and related crimes” or soliciting, coercing, or intimidating another person to do so.
Florida defines the word “conceal” to mean to “prevent disclosure or recognition of; to place out of sight.” Examples of concealment can be found in Hardie, v. State, 162 So.3d 297 (2015) and United States v. Villarini, 238 F.3d 530 (4th Cir.2001).
Concealment or Promotion in Florida’s Money Laundering Statute
Concealment can involve more than just spending the money or using the property taken. Prosecutors look for anything that would indicate an intent to conceal including:
- statements by a suspect showing an intent to conceal;
- using third parties to conceal the real owner of the property;
- depositing illegal profits in the bank account of a legitimate business;
- highly irregular features in a financial transaction;
- a series of unusual financial transfers cumulating in the transaction;
- unusual secrecy in making the transactions; or
- structuring the transactions in a way to avoid attention from the authorities.
Forfeiture in Money Laundering Cases
In recent years, the number of prosecutions for money laundering in Fort Launderdale and throughout Broward County, FL, have increased dramatically. Part of that increase is attributed Florida’s Contraband Forfeiture Act and the availability of temporary injunctions to freeze money in a bank account. To obtain a temporary injunction, the funds in the account must total more than $10,000.
Under Florida Statute §932.701, the forfeiture act in applies to all types of property including money, currency, securities, negotiable instruments, vehicles, vessels, aircrafts, tools, substances, devices, and weapons. The forfeiture act applies when that property was used or was attempted to be used as an instrumentality in the commission of, or in aiding or abetting in the commission of any felony.
In other words, any contraband involved in money laundering could be subject to forfeiture under the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act. In some cases, officers will seek a temporary injunction in the circuit court having jurisdiction where the property is located. The temporary injunction will “freeze” the assets to prevent the person accused of money laundering from withdrawing, transferring, removing, dissipating or disposing of the money or property.
The temporary injunction will only last for ten (10) days. The authorities must then initiate a court order, warrant or forfeiture proceeding in order to seize the monetary instruments or funds for subsequent criminal prosecution. In many of these cases, a person will first learn of the criminal investigation into money laundering when proceeds from their bank are frozen.
The subpoena issued to the financial institution for money laundering investigations must include a nondisclosure provision. This provision prevents the bank or financial institution from notifying, directly or indirectly, any customer whose records are being sought by the subpoena about the existence or contents of the subpoena.
If the funds in your bank account were frozen and the bank is not giving you any information to explain why, contact a criminal defense attorney in Fort Lauderdale, FL, at Meltzer & Bell who can assist you either getting the hold lifted or investigating the circumstances that lead to the injunction.
Florida Statute Section 896.101 – Money Laundering Act – Visit the website of the Florida Senate to find criminal offenses listing in Title XLVI or Chapter 896 for offenses related to financial transactions including the Florida Money Laundering Act in Section 101. The statute includes definitions, penalties, and the requirement for temporary injunctions to seize access and requirements related to warrants.
Finding an Attorney for Laundering Money in Fort Lauderdale, FL
If you were charged with laundering money under Florida Statute Section 896.101 (known as Florida’s Money Laundering Act), then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss your case.
The attorneys at Meltzer & Bell are experienced in fighting these types of charges related to allegations of white collar crime, organized crime, cybercrime, and drug trafficking. Call us for a free and confidential consultation to discuss the particular facts of your case. Call (754) 755-8554 today.
This article was last updated on Friday, October 27, 2016.