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Money Laundering under Health & Safety Code 11370.9 in Los Angeles
As the name implies, money laundering is the attempt to funnel the proceeds from an illegal activity through a legitimate enterprise or activity and thus have a “clean” source of cash. General money laundering is proscribed under Penal Code Section 186.10, but 11370.9 HS covers the more specific crime of money laundering in connection with controlled substances.
Elements of 11370.9 HS
To be convicted, the prosecution must prove you:
• Received, acquired or were engaged in a transaction that involved money or some benefit derived from a controlled substance offense, and
• Did so with the intent to disguise or conceal the ownership, control or source of the money, and
• The total value of the money so concealed was greater than $25,000 in a 30 day period.
Penalties for Conviction
11370.9 HS is what is considered a “wobbler” for purposes of how it is charged, meaning you could be facing either a misdemeanor or a felony. How the prosecutor will charge you will be dependent on the facts and circumstances of the current matter, as well as any priors you may have on your record. Consequently, the range of potential penalties varies significantly.
A misdemeanor conviction exposes you to up to one year in county jail or a fine of up to $1000 or both. In contrast, a felony sentence can be as harsh as 16 months, two years or three years in jail plus up to $25,000 in fines or twice the amount of money that was laundered, whichever is greater. And remember, this is the punishment that may be meted out on a first conviction.
As are most criminal offenses, 11370.9 HS is an intent crime; therefore, a viable defense may be that you lacked the specific intent to disguise the ownership or source of the money, for example. Additionally, the source and amount of the money must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. This can be a factor in circumstances where you as the alleged money launderer have a legitimate source of income where some or all of the money in question may have come from.
And as always in criminal law cases, each defendant has Constitutional protections that may come in to play. As an example, if your rights against unreasonable search and seizure were violated by law enforcement in the lead up to or shortly after your arrest, evidence gathered may be subject to exclusion.
Although you may not be charged or convicted for violations of 11370.9 HS, you may face prosecution under 186.10 PC. Some of the differences between the two include that the underlying activity can be any type of criminal enterprise, not just a drug crime, and a lesser amount of laundered money is required, $5000 in a seven day period. Also, in addition to the state laws, there are Federal statutes that also impose criminal sanctions for money laundering.
Finally, it also may be you will face prosecution for crimes associated with the underlying illegal activity depending on the nature and extent of your involvement.