Money laundering is the act of disguising the origin of money obtained through illegal activity. In Virginia, that specifically means the commission of a felony. In a sense, those who commit money laundering compound one offense with another. Although they may not have had involvement in the original crime, they know that it took place. A charge of money laundering requires knowledge that the money source was unlawful activity serious enough to incur felony charges.
Law enforcement can trace the course of “dirty” money in the interest of arresting those alleged to have committed a crime. Money laundering makes the funds harder to trace because they appear legitimate. The person in control of the ill-gotten funds can then use them to fund subsequent crimes, and the integrity of the financial institutions in the United States becomes weakened as a result.
Because money laundering can have serious consequences such as these, the Code of Virginia imposes penalties that range in severity on those who knowingly participate in money laundering.
Conversion of electronic funds
One method of money laundering is converting cash into electronic funds or other negotiable interests. The first time someone does this, knowing that the cash represents the proceeds from a felony, it is a Class 1 misdemeanor. However, any subsequent violations incur Class 6 felony charges, the penalties for which may include a $2,500 fine, a prison term for up to five years, or up to 12 months’ confinement in jail, depending on the discretion of the court.
Conducting a financial transaction
Conducting a financial transaction involving funds that one knows to have proceeded from felony activity is a more serious offense than simply converting the cash to electronic funds. A person who conducts such an unlawful transaction could face fines and/or imprisonment. The fine may be up to $500,000, and the prison sentence could be as long as 40 years.