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Could you be a mule for money launderers?

On Behalf of | Jan 11, 2022 | Federal Crimes

Many people do not believe that white-collar crimes are severe enough to warrant a lot of attention from the authorities. After all, it is not like anyone died due to your intentional or accidental participation in a money-laundering scheme.

You might not realize this, but local and federal governments treat many white-collar crimes about as severely as they do violent crimes. Money laundering is one such offense that garners swift, aggressive action on the part of both prosecutors and lawmakers.

Are you an unwitting money mule?

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), money mules move or transfer funds illegally on behalf of another person in order to make illegally obtained funds seem legitimate (and, therefore, spendable). 

Sometimes, people knowingly become money mules to make money. Other times, people fall prey to an assortment of scams that prey on their emotions, desperation or naivete to gain their participation.

A money mule scheme may look like the following: Someone approaches you with a lucrative but vague work-from-home opportunity. You’re broke, so you don’t ask a lot of questions. You receive instructions to open a new bank account for receiving and transferring money. Transactions can occur in the following ways:

  • Wire transfer
  • Via the U.S. postal service
  • Automated Clearing House (ACH) transfer
  • Via financial service companies like Western Union

Don’t be fooled by the fact that a company is using a legitimate financial service for their transactions. If your only job duties involve transferring and processing transactions, and you get to keep some of the money, it could be an illegal operation.

What legal repercussions may money mules face?

Some of the specific charges that may arise when money mules get caught include:

  • Money laundering
  • Wire fraud
  • Bank fraud
  • Identity theft
  • Mail fraud

The consequences of a conviction for any of the white-collar crimes can include substantial prison time and enormous fines if convicted, so don’t hesitate to learn more about your potential defenses. If you’ve been charged with money laundering, invoke your right to remain silent until you’ve had time to hire a California criminal defense attorney who can help you to fully understand the charges and your legal options.