Money laundering derives its name from the concept of taking “dirty” money that has been gained through illegal processes and making it “clean” by hiding it within legal sources or accounts.

Federal money laundering law under 18 U.S.C. § 1956 carries a maximum sentence of twenty years and a maximum fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the laundered funds. Federal law defines money laundering into three types of conduct: 1) domestic money laundering transactions; 2) international money laundering transactions; and 3) “sting” money laundering transactions. If you are accused of money laundering, you will be up against a powerful state or federal government agency that is willing to put in hours and resources to see you convicted.

There is no room for error in a case as serious as money laundering. The defense counsel you retain needs to be experienced, knowledgeable, and highly respected throughout legal branches and communities. At Varghese & Associates, P.C., our New York federal criminal defense attorneys have the background and qualifications you need to protect your rights with confidence.



The act of money laundering is generally broken down into three distinct stages. Within your defense strategy, if there is room for doubt in any of these three stages, there is the opportunity to expose weaknesses in the prosecution’s argument. To keep your freedom and uphold your reputation, the prosecution’s case needs to be thoroughly dismantled. Your ability to do so starts with your understanding of the charges against you, and having the right attorneys in your corner from the beginning.

Three typical steps of money laundering include the following:

  1. Placement: money that has been gathered through an illegal source – like prostitution or drug smuggling – is “placed” in a legal business or enterprises’ legitimate revenue stream. For example, a shop owner might start adding illegally-earned money into his or her record books and store the funds until the money is ready to be layered in step two;
  2. Layering: to rapidly bury the original source of the income, layers of transactions are created to move money from one source to another, then another, and so on. Layering is typically done through wire transfers, company funding, shell businesses, and other high-end means of financial transactions. Investigators will look for evidence of layering if they believe a suspect’s money laundering scheme is tied to a criminal syndicate; and
  3. Integration: money laundering is not complete until the illegal finances are integrated back into the legal network of finances. Successful layering obscures the original source of the “dirty” money and makes the funds appear “clean.” A simple example of integration would be a shopkeeper giving “dirty” or even counterfeited currency back to customers through change made at the register.

New York Penal Law § § 470-470.25 defines money laundering and labels it as a felony, no matter the apparent severity of the crime.

For the government to convict an accused of money laundering, and not a lesser financial crime, they must explicitly demonstrate each element of the crime. The government’s weaknesses lie in this structured burden of proof. Our Manhattan criminal defense attorneys know how to exploit these weaknesses and will consider every angle when crafting your defense to clear your name.

Review our case results – including a victory over the IRS – or call (212) 529-3925 for more information about our experience and legal services.


Since money laundering is tied to illegal money, currency, and resources being posed as legal, there are two clear defense strategies against the charges, including the following: 1) proving the money originated from a legal source; or 2) proving you never knew the source was illegal. No matter how you want to start constructing your defense, we are here to guide you and zealously advocate on your behalf. Contact our white collar defense attorneys in Manhattan today.