The United States estimates that money laundering generates approximately $300 billion. The 2018 National Money Laundering Risk Assessment states most of the money earned from crime stays within the U.S.

In simple terms, money laundering is the process of making large amounts of money through criminal activity and making that money appear as if it comes from a legitimate source. This type of criminal act incurs both federal and state penalties. If a law enforcement entity charges you with money laundering, there may be defenses that can help you during trial.

Missouri law

The state of Missouri, under MRS 574.105, shows the offense of money laundering occurs when a person commits the following acts:

  • Uses a currency transaction with the intent to commit a criminal act
  • Uses a currency transaction to conceal the nature, location, source, ownership or control of a criminal act
  • Uses a currency transaction to avoid federal law reporting requirements
  • Uses a currency transaction to aid criminal activity for the purpose of a terrorist threat or act

Money laundering is a Class B felony. Class B felonies in Missouri are punishable by imprisonment of between five and 15 years. Fines levied may be either $500,000 or twice the amount of the illegal transaction.

Possible defenses

Money laundering is a specific intent crime. Specific intent refers to your state of mind at the time the crime took place. The two levels of intent include the desire to commit the unlawful act and the intention of the act to have a specific result. To combat specific intent, you may be able to use the following defenses:

  • Lack of intent
  • Duress
  • Lack of evidence

You may have a successful defense if you can prove you had no intention of committing a criminal act, or that someone forced you to commit the act or threatened you.

The government must show beyond a reasonable doubt that you intended to commit the criminal act of money laundering. By not presenting specific evidence that shows the laundered money was part of an illegal act or that you intended to illegally conceal the money, the prosecution may not have a case.