Money Laundering Charges in California: Key Facts and Recent Cases

Learn about money laundering charges in California, including legal definitions, penalties, and defenses in this guide by The Law Office of Valery Nechay

Dealing With a California Money Laundering Charge: What You Need to Know

Facing a money laundering charge in California is daunting. These charges can stem from complex investigations involving financial transactions designed to conceal the source of illegally obtained funds.

Legal representation is crucial when facing such charges. At The Law Office of Valery Nechay, our practice focuses on defending those accused of various crimes, such as money laundering. Our experienced team provides personalized guidance to navigate the complexities of these charges. We work tirelessly to offer the best defense strategies tailored to each unique case, ensuring our clients receive every possible advantage.

What Is Money Laundering?

Money laundering is a serious criminal activity involving disguising the origins of funds obtained illegally. The goal is to make dirty money appear legitimate. This often involves complex financial transactions and the use of various methods to obscure the trail of illicit funds.

California defines money laundering under Penal Code Section 186.10. This law outlines the process of transferring or receiving funds intending to promote criminal activities.

Key Elements: To secure a conviction, prosecutors typically must prove that:

  1. The defendant knew the money was from a criminal activity.
  2. The transaction involved proceeds from that criminal activity.
  3. The defendant acted with the intent to promote illegal activity.

Separate Offenses: Each transaction conducted through a financial institution valued over $5,000, or multiple transactions that collectively exceed $5,000 within a week or $25,000 within 30 days, can be charged as separate offenses. This can significantly impact the number of charges one might face.

Penalties For Money Laundering

Under California state laws, money laundering is classified as a “wobbler” offense. This implies that the charge can be prosecuted either as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on various factors such as the amount of money involved and the defendant’s criminal history.

Misdemeanor Charges

If prosecuted as a misdemeanor, the penalties can include:

  • Imprisonment in county jail for up to one year
  • Fines up to $1,000
  • Probation terms

Felony Charges

When prosecuted as a felony, the punishments are notably more severe:

  • Imprisonment in state prison for 16 months, two years, or three years
  • Fines up to $250,000 or twice the value of the money laundered, whichever is greater (for a second or subsequent offense, a maximum of $500,000 or five times the value of the money laundered)
  • Probation terms

Common Methods of Money Laundering That Are Penalized

  • Bank Deposits and Withdrawals Large sums of money are split into smaller deposits in financial institutions to avoid detection.
  • Wire Transfers: Moving money across borders to hide origins.
  • Shell Companies: Creating fake businesses to funnel money as part of a money laundering scheme.
  • Real Estate Transactions: Using property purchases to mask money flow.

Types of Transactions

  • Individual Transactions: Single, large transfers of money.
  • Series of Transactions: Multiple smaller transfers that add up to a significant amount.
  • Common Scheme or Plan: Coordinated activities to launder money over time.

Defenses To Money Laundering Charges

Money laundering in California is stringently prosecuted. As such, facing such charges can be daunting, but several defenses are available. Each defense depends on the specific circumstances of the case and the evidence presented.

Lack of Intent or Knowledge

One of the primary defenses is demonstrating that the accused lacked intent or knowledge of the criminal origin of the funds. Money laundering crimes require specific intent to disguise the source of illicit funds. The charges may not hold if it is shown that the defendant did not intend to conceal any illegal activity.

Mistake of Fact

This defense revolves around the belief that the defendant was unaware of the transactions’ illegal nature. For example, if someone unknowingly received money from a laundering scheme and used it in good faith, this could be a valid defense.

Violation of Constitutional Rights

Under the Sixth Amendment and the California Constitution, any violation of rights can result in the dismissal of charges. For example, if law enforcement obtains evidence through illegal searches or seizures, such actions could violate constitutional rights. Our criminal defense attorneys often scrutinize whether these rights were respected during the investigation.

Challenging the Accusatory Pleading

Sometimes, the initial charges may be based on insufficient or improper grounds. By challenging the accusatory pleading, we can argue that the prosecution has not met the necessary legal standards to proceed with the case.

Importance Of Legal Representation In Money Laundering Cases

Facing money laundering charges in California is a serious and complex matter that demands experienced legal representation. A well-versed criminal defense attorney can make a substantial difference in the outcome of a case. The Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to legal representation, ensuring fair trials for all defendants.

Interpreting California’s Penal Code requires a deep understanding of California law and criminal system. Without a knowledgeable attorney, defendants risk misinterpreting legal nuances that could be pivotal in their defense.

Prosecutors and law enforcement agencies aggressively pursue money laundering cases. We understand the importance of meticulously challenging every aspect of the prosecution’s claims. An experienced criminal defense attorney investigates every angle of a criminal case to gather evidence to support their defense strategy and present them eloquently to the trier of fact.

Navigating the legal system without professional representation can be overwhelming and risky. Legal professionals are equipped to handle the intricacies of plea negotiations, court procedures, and strategic defenses, providing the best possible chances of a favorable outcome. Our commitment to defending those accused of money laundering charges is unwavering.

Effective legal representation is not just a right; it’s an essential safeguard against the full force of the criminal justice system. At The Law Office of Valery Nechay, our focus remains on delivering the kind of skilled guidance and steadfast defense our clients require throughout every step of the legal process.

Contact Our California White Collar Criminal Defense Attorney

Defending against white-collar in California crimes requires specific knowledge and experience. Our experienced attorneys are well-versed in both federal laws and California state laws. If you or someone you know is under investigation, it is crucial to act swiftly.

You don’t have to navigate this alone. Contact us to discuss your case at no cost today. We are committed to protecting your rights and fighting for your freedom.


If you are under investigation or charged with a crime, I will consult with you in person and at no charge to you.