Money laundering is cleaning dirty money. It is the process of transferring cash gained from illegal and criminal activities back into legitimate financial instruments. Usually, experienced accountants and financial consultants can introduce dirty money into financial institutions through placement and layering. However, it is much cheaper for a criminal organization to use unsuspecting money mules to move their money for them. Because these individuals are in no way tied to the group, their accounts and transactions are more inconspicuous thus, harder to trace.
How can you be a money mule?
Organized crime groups can use trusting people to cash counterfeit checks and buy merchandise using stolen bank accounts and credit cards. These people become money mules without even realizing it. A money mule is an individual who transfers or moves illegally earned money for another individual or entity. Here are ways someone can deceive you into money laundering:
- Get-rich-quick job opportunities that involve transferring funds or processing payments
- Questionable investments with unrealistic returns where they can use your personal bank account to clean dirty checks
- A job opportunity that involves forwarding or moving stolen goods
- An online companion or romantic interest asking you to receive money and transfer it to people you never met
In Texas, money laundering is always a felony. Whether someone forces or cons you into a money laundering scheme, your involvement is a federal crime met with severe consequences.
Consequences of being a money mule
The government will charge you with a federal offense if any investigation links you to money laundering. The penalties for money laundering include hefty fines and years in prison. Serving as a money mule can also discredit you and damage your financial standing.
Building a strong defense is so crucial. Don’t let trust lead you into a compromising situation; you are always innocent until proven guilty.