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Money Laundering

The purpose of Iowa's money laundering statute “is to prohibit the proceeds from an illegal activity from entering commerce and being detached and concealed from its original illegal source.” 4 Iowa Practice, Criminal Law Sec. 12.6 (2013–2014 ed.).

In United States v. Green, 599 F.3d 360, 373 (4th Cir.2010), the court explains that “money laundering occurs when money derived from criminal activity is placed into a legitimate business in an effort to cleanse the money of criminal taint.” The Iowa Supreme Court has recently summarized principles that aid our analysis, stating:

The purpose of statutory interpretation is to determine the legislature's intent. We give words their ordinary and common meaning by considering the context within which they are used, absent a statutory definition or an established meaning in the law. We also consider the legislative history of a statute, including prior enactments, when ascertaining legislative intent. When we interpret a statute, we assess the statute in its entirety, not just isolated words or phrases. We may not extend, enlarge, or otherwise change the meaning of a statute under the guise of construction.

State v. Romer, 832 N.W.2d 169, 176 (Iowa 2013).


Examples of Money Laundering in Iowa

Money laundering under section 706B.2(1)(a) involves more than simply accepting money for illegal drugs or receiving the proceeds of a drug transaction. For example, in United States v. Awada, 425 F.3d 522 (8th Cir.2005), the courts found that the “money laundering statutes criminalize transactions in proceeds, not the transactions that create the proceeds.” Awada, 425 F.3d at 524.

In Frantz v. State, No. WD 76773, 2014 WL 4547840, at *2–3 (Mo.Ct.App. Sept. 16, 2014), the court explained: “Put plainly, the laundering of funds cannot occur in the same transaction through which those funds first become tainted by crime.” 2014 WL 4547841, at *2 (citing United States v. Butler, 211 F.3d 826, 830 (4th Cir.2000)).

Under Iowa law, section 706B.2(1)(a) criminalizes conducting a transaction but also knowingly transporting, receiving and acquiring property that constitutes proceeds from a specified unlawful activity as defined by section 706B.1(3). Notwithstanding the broad sweep of our statute, the courts have found that the proper construction of section 706B.2(1)(a) still requires the application of the principle recited in Awada.

When the individual aids an unspecified unlawful activity by knowingly transporting, receiving or acquiring the activity's property or conducts a transaction involving the property, the individual is guilty of money laundering. In Iowa, the method of committing money laundering under section 706B.2(1)(a), however, does not specifically require any concealment or cleansing of the proceeds. See Brown v. Kerkhoff, 504 F.Supp.2d 464, 541 (S.D.Iowa 2007) (concluding the alternate method of committing money laundering under this subsection does not require the person to “conceal or disguise the nature of the property”).

The evil prohibited by the money laundering statute is performing an act that lends aid to the specified unlawful activity. Therefore, the transaction in proceeds is criminalized. See Awada, 425 F.3d at 524. 


Attorneys for Money Laundering in Des Moines, Iowa

Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C., to discuss any allegations of money laundering in Des Moines, or the surrounding areas in Iowa. We can help you understand the criminal charges, the potential penalties, and important defenses that can be used to fight the charges. Call (515) 279-9700 today to discuss your case. 

This article was last updated on Friday, October 7, 2016.

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