Understanding the crime and consequences of money laundering

On Behalf of | Jan 23, 2024 | Criminal Defense, White Collar Crimes |

Although it’s not the most violent of crimes, money laundering is still one of the most serious offenses to commit in South Carolina and other U.S. states.

This blog will explain what money laundering is and South Carolina’s legal stance on the offense. It will also discuss the penalties that await offenders.

What is money laundering?

Generally speaking, money laundering is the illegal process of making large sums of money gained from criminal activity (such as drug trafficking or terrorist funding) appear to have come from legitimate sources.

There are three stages to money laundering:

  • Placement: The launderer introduces the funds into the financial system. It might involve breaking up large amounts of cash into smaller sums deposited into a bank account individually so as not to arouse suspicion. Or it could involve hiding the fund owner’s identity through trusts or offshore companies.
  • Layering: The launderer then moves the amounts through a series of financial transactions with the goal of concealing its source. This is accomplished through steps such as converting cash into various types of cryptocurrency or cycling funds from one bank to another while buying liquid assets.
  • Integration: Finally, the launderer attempts to integrate the funds into the legitimate financial system through schemes such as paying fake employees or handing out loans that aren’t repaid.

Money laundering is a federal crime if the cash crosses between states. However, South Carolina also actively prosecutes offenders within its jurisdiction. Violators may end up facing both federal and state charges.

The legal consequences of money laundering

Under South Carolina law, it’s illegal for a person to make a financial transaction knowing that the property or money involved are proceeds of unlawful activity. Said financial transaction must also be aimed at further promoting the unlawful activity or concealing the ownership or nature of the property.

State law also prohibits persons from transporting or transmitting funds from South Carolina to a place outside the U.S. (or vice-versa). It’s illegal if the offender’s intent is to promote unlawful activity or conceal the nature or ownership of the property.

The penalties for money laundering depend on the transaction values involved in the offense within a 12-month period:

  • Transactions exceed $300 but less than $20,000 in 12 months: This is a Class F felony, which carries up to five years of prison time.
  • Transactions equal to or greater than $20,000 but less than $100,000 in 12 months: This is a Class E felony, which carries up to 10 years of prison time.
  • Transactions equal to or greater than $100,000 in 12 months: This is a Class C felony, which carries up to 20 years of prison time.

In addition to these penalties, a person who pleads guilty to money laundering might have to pay fines of up to $250,000 or twice the value of the financial transactions.

There are severe repercussions for anyone who violates South Carolina’s money laundering laws. If you face related charges, consider seeking legal counsel to understand your defense options in court.



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