Money laundering is an offense that often occurs as part of a larger criminal enterprise or organized crime ring. Money is usually laundered to hide its source and obscure the fact that it was earned through criminal activity. In many cases, money laundering charges are brought against multiple parties, usually linked together through conspiracy charges. However, many people who help perpetrate the crime of money laundering are completely unaware that they are being used to commit a crime and should not be found guilty.
If you or a loved one was charged with money laundering crimes in New Jersey, talk to the Atlantic City money laundering defense attorneys at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych. For a free consultation on your case and help understanding how you might be able to avoid charges, contact our law offices today at (609) 616-4956.
What is the Definition of Money Laundering in New Jersey?
Money laundering is commonly understood to include any scheme where proceeds of an illegal activity are filtered through a legitimate business operation to hide the source of the money. Money laundering turns “dirty” money into “clean” money so that the offender or someone they are working with can use the funds in general society without having them linked back to a criminal operation like illegal gambling, drug trafficking, racketeering activities, or other criminal enterprises.
In New Jersey, money laundering is criminalized under N.J.S.A. § 2C:21-25. This offense criminalizes three specific things:
- Possessing or moving property derived from crime,
- Performing transactions with property derived from crime, or
- Planning or supervising the moving or use of property derived from crime.
Transporting or using funds from a crime is illegal under this statute. That means that spending money you received from committing a crime – or even stashing the cash somewhere else – might constitute a crime.
For a transaction to qualify as a crime, the transaction must either “facilitate or promote the criminal activity,” conceal the source of the funds, or avoid reporting requirements. This first type of transaction involves spending the crime’s proceeds on more materials or equipment to commit more crime. The second type of transaction covers the traditional definition of money laundering, whereby a legitimate business filters dirty money through it to hide the source. The third definition covers many types of “structuring” or “smurfing” offenses.
“Smurfing,” formally known as “structuring,” is the crime of breaking down large transactions into smaller transactions to avoid reporting requirements. For example, any cash transactions worth at least $10,000 must be reported to the government. Breaking this transaction down into two $5,000 transactions or five $2,000 transactions to avoid having to report the transaction is a crime under this statute. Subsection (e) of § 2C:21-25 also elaborates further on other structuring and smurfing offenses, including trying to get an official not to file a disclosure or report.
The federal government also has its own money laundering offense, which overlaps heavily with New Jersey’s definition. If you are charged with money laundering as a state crime, you may also be charged with the federal crime without violating the constitutional protection against double jeopardy.
Penalties for Money Laundering in New Jersey
New Jersey’s money laundering statute creates multiple offenses, but they are all graded in the same manner. The degree of crime for money laundering is based on the amount of money laundered, as follows:
- Laundering $500,000 or more is a first degree crime punished by 10-20 years in prison and fines up to $200,000.
- Laundering $75,000 or more (but less than $500,000) is a second degree crime punished by 5-10 years in prison and fines up to $150,000.
- Otherwise, money laundering is a third degree crime punished by 3-5 years in prison and fines up to $15,000.
When calculating the amount of money you laundered, the government does not need to look at one transaction or criminal event. Instead, they can “aggregate” or add-up all funds that were part of the same “scheme or course of conduct.” That means that after years of performing money laundering activities, a series of smaller transactions could be combined and charged as a second or first degree crime.
Laundering illegal money means that you may be charged with the underlying crime that produced the money as well. This may involve drug trafficking, racketeering, prostitution, or some other offense. When you face penalties for the underlying crime and the money laundering, NJ law specifically states that these penalties should run consecutively, not concurrently. That means that if you are sentenced to 3 years for money laundering and 3 years for the underlying crime, you must spend 6 years in prison; you cannot serve both 3-year sentences at the same time.
Atlantic City Money Laundering Defense Lawyer Offering Free Consultations
If you or a loved one was charged with money laundering offenses in South Jersey, talk to the Atlantic City money laundering defense attorneys at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych. Our attorneys have decades of combined experience handling state and federal criminal charges for white collar crimes and other serious offenses like money laundering. For help with your charges and to schedule a free consultation, call our law offices today at (609) 616-4956.