Money laundering in Florida is a serious issue. Due to its position as a prime corridor for illegal drugs, money laundering is a major concern for law enforcement on all levels in Florida. What follows is a brief overview of Florida’s money laundering laws and what you need to know if you find yourself charged with the crime of money laundering in Florida.
In broad terms, money laundering is the act of changing the origin of money obtained in the course of a crime into a legal source of funding. The first money laundering laws in America arose in the 1930s during the Prohibition Era in an attempt at slowing down organized crime’s funding from the proceeds of illegal alcohol sales. Money laundering became a major tool of the state in the 1980s, as law enforcement used it against major dealers of illegal drugs.
In Florida, money laundering is defined as conducting a financial transaction involving illicit funds and
- concealing or disguising the nature, the location, the source, the ownership, or the control of the proceeds of specified unlawful activity, or
- avoiding a transaction reporting requirement or money transmitters’ registration requirement under state law.
Transporting money or funds that either
- continue an illegal activity, or
- knowingly concealing the origin of funds used in illegal activities, or avoiding transaction reporting requirements
is also considered money laundering in Florida.
Finally, money laundering in Florida is also conducting a financial transaction using funds identified by law enforcement as being involved in illegal activity and intending to
- promote an illegal activity,
- conceal the source of the funds, or
- avoid a transaction reporting requirement.
The intent element for money laundering in Florida changes based upon the amount of the money allegedly being laundered. If the amount is $10,000 or less, the defendant must have known that the funds arose from an illegal source or are being used to further a crime.
However, if the amount of money in question is more than $10,000, prosecutors must show that the defendant either did know or should have known after reasonable inquiry of the funds’ illegal nature.
Money laundering is a felony in Florida. The degree of felony is different for different amounts of funds involved.
If the amount of funds involved is between $300 and $20,000 in a twelve-month period, a conviction is a third degree felony and may be punished by up to five years in prison. If the amount in a twelve-month period is between $20,000 and $100,000, it then becomes a second degree felony, punishable by up to fifteen years. If the funds involved exceed $100,000, a conviction is a first degree felony, which may lead to a prison sentence of up to 30 years.
The fine for money laundering in Florida is different than that for most other crimes. A defendant may be fined the greater of $250,000 or double the amount of the money laundered. However, if the defendant has a previous conviction for money laundering in Florida, the fine could go as high as $500,000 or five times the amount of money laundered by the defendant.