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How Does Forfeiture Work in a Money Laundering Case?

Money laundering is an action that hides illicit funds by investing them into legitimate businesses. As the name implies, hiding the source of money is the pivotal aspect of the crime. Federal and state governments work to counteract money laundering by seizing money or assets through a legal process called forfeiture. In an Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Training conference held in September 2012, a U.S. Attorney explained how forfeiture was an important tool for money laundering investigations. Forfeiture has the aim of removing the money laundering incentive ─ the illicit funds.

Most federal money laundering investigations lead to civil forfeiture actions rather than criminal forfeiture, simply because the burden of proof is much less in a civil case than a criminal case. Therefore, prosecution is easier and so is obtaining verdicts in the government’s favor. The U.S. attorney explained that over the past four years the U.S. Attorney’s Office obtained more than $245 million in assets that involved cases arising through agencies such as the FBI, DEA, FDA, U.S. Postal, IRS, ICE, U.S. Secret Service, ATF and NOAA.

In the latter part of 2012, federal authorities attempted to seize more than $1.2 million in a money laundering case in the Houston area. The Houston Chronicle reported that the forfeiture case was part of two Brownsville properties federal authorities targeted for seizure, along with $6.5 million in bank accounts and a dozen properties in San Antonio, South Padre Island and Rio Grande Valley, valued at $20 million. Federal authorities allege that the properties were acquired through laundered money.

Money laundering is a serious charge and forfeiture can result in extensive losses and time in prison. If charged with money laundering, seek legal defense from a skilled money laundering lawyer in El Paso, Texas.