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Money Laundering under California Law (PC 186.10)

LEGAL DEFINITION

PC 186.10:  “A person commits the crime of money laundering when he or she conducts or attempts to conduct one or more transactions within a seven-day period involving a monetary instrument or instruments of a total value exceeding five thousand dollars ($5,000), or a total value exceeding twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000) within a 30-day period, through one or more financial institutions (1) with the specific intent to promote, manage, establish, carry on, or facilitate the promotion, management, establishment, or carrying on of any criminal activity, or (2) knowing that the monetary instrument represents the proceeds of, or is derived directly or indirectly from the proceeds of, criminal activity, is guilty of the crime of money laundering, which can be punished as a misdemeanor or as a felony.”

In order to be found guilty of PC 186.10, the prosecutor must show:

  1. You participated or attempted to participate in one or more financial transactions such as depositing, withdrawing, loaning, or exchanging money, checks, or other property through financial institutions such as banks, money-order companies, pawnbrokers, and foreign currency dealers.
  2. The financial transaction was for more than five thousand dollars ($5,000), or involved multiple transactions within a seven-day period, for a total value exceeding five thousand dollars ($5,000), or involved multiple transactions within a 30-day period, for a total value exceeding twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000).
  3. When you participated in the transaction, you intended to establish, manage, promote, or facilitate criminal activity, or you knew that the money came directly or indirectly from conducting any criminal activity that constitutes a felony.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN

Simply put, the law prohibits the public from channeling in the financial system large amounts of money or other valuable items obtained directly or indirectly through criminal activity.  Law enforcement doesn’t have the resources to investigate all financial transactions, so the law targets transactions involving at least five thousand dollars ($5,000).

PC 186.10 can be difficult to prove because it requires an accounting of the money or property involved in the transactions, it requires evidence that the money or property was obtained through criminal activities, and it requires evidence that the purpose of the transaction was to facilitate or promote criminal activity, or that you knew that the money or property used in the transactions was obtained directly or indirectly from a criminal activity that constitutes a felony.

Examples:

  1. John works as an accountant for a large property management company.  On the 1st day of every month, John fraudulently charges the clients’ accounts for non-existent services provided by a shell company that he owns, obtaining a total of eight thousand dollars ($8,000). The following day, John wires six thousand dollars ($6,000) to himself and uses it to operate his own chain of laundromats and vending machines.  John committed PC 186.10.
  2. Your shady cousin borrows six thousand dollars ($6,000) from your grandmother to start her IT consulting business.  Your grandmother, hoping that the IT business will help your cousin stay out of trouble, lends the money to your cousin.  However, your cousin uses the money to purchase stolen personal identifying information on the internet and commits numerous acts of felony identity theft.  After three months, your cousin hands your grandmother a cashier’s check for six thousand five hundred dollars ($6,500), and your grandmother cashes the check.  Your grandmother did not commit PC 186.10, because she had no knowledge of your cousin’s criminal activity, or that your cousin paid off the loan with money obtained from criminal activities.

PENALTIES

Money laundering is a wobbler, which means that you can be charged with this crime as a misdemeanor or as a felony offense.  Whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or a felony offense, depends on the specific facts of your case, your criminal history, and the amount of the theft.  It also means that if the crime was initially filed as a felony, either party may request the judge to reduce the crime to a misdemeanor.  Each transaction that qualifies as money laundering counts as a separate offense. So if you commit this crime ten times, you can be facing 10 separate charges.

If you are charged with the crime as a misdemeanor, you are sentenced to up to one year in county jail.  If you are charged with the crime as a felony, you can be sentenced to county jail for a period of 16 months, or two or three years.  Whether you are found guilty of a misdemeanor or a felony, you would be required to serve at least 50% of that time in custody.  The fines: if you are convicted of misdemeanor PC 186.10, the judge can order you to pay a fine of one thousand dollars ($1,000).  If you are convicted of felony PC 186.10, the fine will be of not more than two hundred fifty thousand dollars ($250,000) or twice the value of the property transacted, whichever is greater.  If you have one or more prior convictions for money laundering, the judge may impose a fine of five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000) or five times the value of the property transacted, whichever is greater.

Enhancements.  Depending on the value of the property that was the subject of the transactions, the judge can add up to four years of time in custody.  Most specifically, if the transactions involved property with a value between $50,000 and $150,000, the judge could impose up to one additional year in custody.  If the transactions involved property with a value between $150,000 and $1 M, the judge could impose up to two additional years in custody.  If the transactions involved property with a value between $1 M and $2.5 M, the judge could impose up to three additional years in custody.  If the transactions involved property with a value exceeding $2.5 M, the judge can impose up to four additional years in custody.

Other Consequences.  This is not a strike offense under the California Three Strikes law, and it is not a Sex Offense under PC 290.  However, a conviction for PC 186.10 could result in the loss of your Professional License, and you may also lose eligibility for some state and federal benefits.  Finally, if you are not a legal resident, you could face Deportation in Immigration Court since this offense involves theft, which is a crime of moral turpitude.

DEFENSES

  1. Insufficient Evidence.  The most common defense used in criminal defense is that there simply isn’t enough evidence to convict you of the charge.  Perhaps an overzealous police officer or prosecutor misinterpreted the evidence, or somebody falsely reported you to the police to gain something unrelated to the charge, or it was a case of finding yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time.  In the case of money laundering, we would verify whether the value of the property used in the transaction meets the requirements of PC 186.10 and whether the entire amount originates from criminal activity.  We would also analyze whether the prosecution can prove that you participated in the transaction with the intent of promoting or engaging in any criminal activity, or that you knew that the money or property transferred during the transaction was obtained through criminal activity.
  2. Violation of Your Rights.  This could happen in many ways, such as when the police arrest you and ask you questions without first reading you the Miranda Warning.  In PC 186.10 cases, assuming the prosecution has sufficient evidence to prove each element of the crime, we would review the facts to determine whether the police obtained the evidence lawfully.  For example, the police may have obtained your bank records without having first secured a search warrant, or after having conducted a search in an area of your home or business that they did not have the right to search.

CONCLUSION

Facing charges of money laundering under PC 186.10 is a matter of serious concern, carrying implications that can resonate through every facet of your life. Whether it’s treated as a misdemeanor or a felony, the consequences of a conviction – tarnished reputation, heavy financial penalties, and potential incarceration – are severe and far-reaching.

In such pivotal moments, the expertise and swift action of a skilled legal team are invaluable. At Inland Empire Defense, our seasoned PC 186.10 attorneys understand the gravity of money laundering charges. We immediately engage with investigators and prosecutors, meticulously assessing the strength of the evidence against you. Our goal is to proactively minimize the risks to your reputation, finances, and freedom.

With a robust track record of successfully defending thousands of individuals in the Inland Empire against various criminal charges, you can place your trust in our Ontario PC 186.10 attorney. We’re committed to offering you the strongest possible defense and guiding you through each step of this challenging process.

If you’re facing such a grave charge, don’t delay in securing the legal support you need. Contact your local Criminal Defense Attorney at Inland Empire Defense. Call us at 909-939-7126. Conveniently located in Ontario, we’re here to protect your rights and navigate you towards the best possible outcome.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Our legal services are specifically tailored to residents of Riverside, San Bernardino, and Los Angeles Counties. For cases outside these areas, we recommend consulting avvo.com to find appropriate legal assistance. Our focused approach allows us to provide specialized defense catering to the unique legal landscape of these counties.

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