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How do Louisiana defendants challenge money laundering charges?

A Baton Rouge defendant may be involved in a crime without knowing it. For instance, a banker or accountant moves money under the instructions of a customer or employer. Ordering a transaction to take place doesn't require an owner or employer to explain why the transfer is occurring.

A charge of money laundering must be followed by proof the crime was committed intentionally. It's impossible to convict a defendant of the white collar crime for financial gain if the accused has no knowledge of criminal activity. Under the Louisiana money laundering law, the defendant must "knowingly" participate in trying to conceal money or associated transactions, particularly from the Internal Revenue Service.

Money laundering is often used to legitimize funds obtained through illegal means, like drug trafficking. Criminals "cleanse" the money by placing it in off-shore accounts and passing funds through lawful businesses. The income is not reported to the Internal Revenue Service, and therefore, escapes taxation.

Moving money to evade taxes may involve a complex scheme. In addition to proving funds were hidden and shifted, prosecutors must supply evidence the funds originated from an illegal source. IRS investigators support cases with documentation that clearly shows the funds' origin and movement were unlawful.

Money laundering penalties vary according to the amount of money moved for criminal purposes. Under state law, a conviction for transactions involving less than $3,000 may result in a fine of up to $1,000 and up to six months' imprisonment. For illegal transactions valued at $100,000 or more, the maximum fine is $50,000 attached to a possible five- to 99-year prison term.

Having evidence money changed hands for the wrong reasons isn't enough to convict a defendant of money laundering. The defendant had to know what he or she was doing was an illegal act to further criminal activities. Prosecutors must satisfy both these terms for a conviction to be obtained.

Source: Internal Revenue Service, "Overview - Money Laundering" accessed Feb. 19, 2015

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