Federal Specified Unlawful Activity

The concept of “Specified Unlawful Activity” (SUA) is a key term within the framework of federal money laundering statutes, particularly as defined under the United States Code (U.S.C.). SUA refers to certain predicate criminal acts listed by statute that, if proceeds are generated from them, can trigger money laundering charges if those proceeds are then used in certain financial transactions.

Key Aspects of Specified Unlawful Activity

  1. Defined in U.S.C. Title 18, Section 1956(c)(7): This section outlines various categories of criminal activities that can be considered SUAs. The list is extensive, covering a broad range of crimes that include but are not limited to drug trafficking, human trafficking, terrorism, bribery, fraud, and smuggling.
  2. Predicate Offense: SUA serves as a predicate offense in money laundering cases. This means that for a money laundering charge to be applicable, the money involved must have been derived from an activity considered a SUA.
  3. Link to Money Laundering: SUA is critical because it links the initial criminal activity (the SUA) to subsequent financial transactions. If funds are known to be derived from an SUA, then knowingly conducting financial transactions with those funds can lead to charges of money laundering.
  4. Broad Scope and International Implications: Many of the specified unlawful activities, such as terrorism financing and international drug trafficking, have both domestic and international implications. This allows federal authorities to pursue money laundering charges that have connections to foreign and cross-border criminal activities.
  5. Enhanced Penalties: Engaging in financial transactions involving proceeds from an SUA can lead to severe penalties under the money laundering statutes, including imprisonment, hefty fines, and forfeiture of the proceeds and any property involved in or traceable to the money laundering activity.
  6. Tool for Broader Investigations: The SUA designation allows federal agencies to tackle larger criminal enterprises by targeting their financial activities. By prosecuting for money laundering based on proceeds from SUAs, authorities can disrupt and dismantle criminal organizations beyond just prosecuting the initial criminal conduct.

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Many crimes qualify as “Specified Unlawful Activities” under federal law. This term connotes offenses which can support money-laundering crimes. Money laundering is an offense that criminalizes transactions that are designed to promote certain crimes, hide those crimes, or spend proceeds from those crimes in large quantities. See 18 USC 1956 and 1957.

For example, if a fraudster deposits wire fraud proceeds into an account named under a shell corporation, and then uses those deposits to buy a home in the corporation’s name, the federal Government may argue that both the deposit and the purchase were done in a manner to conceal or disguise the source of the funds and thus constituted money laundering. Or, if a drug dealer mixes drug proceeds with the cash earnings of a laundromat for deposit in a bank, that deposit would be done in a manner to conceal the true source of funds and thus money laundering.

The operative question then becomes, which offenses can be used as a basis to assert that money derived from them, if involved in a transaction, is involved in a money laundering transaction?

The answer is…Specified Unlawful Activity. If you are facing charges of federal specified unlawful activity in Fort Worth, call an attorney at our firm for legal assistance today.

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What is Specified Unlawful Activity?

These crimes are listed under 18 USC 1956(c)(7) and 1961(1). Some of them are smuggling (18 USC 545549554), unlawful firearms importation (18 USC 922), FDIC fraud, wire fraud (18 USC 1343), mail fraud (18 USC 1341), sports bribery, counterfeiting, narcotics offenses (21 USC 841), welfare fraud, human trafficking passport fraud, and a multitude of other federal offenses.

Make no mistake; this list is expansive because it is the tool used by the U.S. Government to shut down the financial incentive for crime. In essence, money-laundering statutes make criminal proceeds toxic and risky in commerce. As such, money-laundering offenses are afforded an even more expansive forfeiture theory than allowed for most other crimes.

Typically, only facilitating property and traceable proceeds are subject to forfeiture. However, property that is commingled, or merely “involved in” a money laundering offense can be seized and forfeited. This means that the legitimate earnings of the laundromat can be taken and kept by the Government along with the laundered drug money. This legal paradigm has become a powerful tool in the arsenal of federal law enforcement.

Seeking Legal Help for Charges of Federal Specified Unlawful Activity in Fort Worth

Obviously, this expansion invites abuse and raises concerns that innocent businesses and citizens are vulnerable to possible overreaching and overinclusion. If you are under investigation for any federal specified unlawful activity in Fort Worth, contact Varghese Summersett PLLC at 817-203-2220.

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