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Structuring is a federal crime in which a person that alleges a person made withdrawals or deposits under $10,000 in a manner intended to avoid the Suspicious Activity Reports.
A Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) is a document that banks and other financial institutions file to document possible money laundering. A Currency Transaction Report must be filed whenever an individual deposits, withdraws, conducts any transaction involving currency of more than $10,000. If a person deposits cash in increments designed to avoid a Currency Transaction Requirement (CTR) by breaking up large sums of money into smaller amounts of money, that person is possibly committing structuring. (31 U.S.C. 5324)
Structuring is illegal regardless of whether the money that has been deposited is connected to any crime. That means that the Government does not need to show that the cash is drug money, proceeds of a fraud, or even meant to be omitted from any tax reporting for the depositor (or withdrawer) to be prosecuted.
If the owner of a laundromat makes $12,000 in cash one day and decides that she doesn’t want to have a CTR go out for a deposit of more than $10,000, she may choose to deposit $9,000 the following morning and the other $3,000 that same afternoon. If this was done to specifically avoid that report, then the law has been broken and that owner is said to have structured cash. Also, if a car dealership sells a car for $17,000 in cash and fails to file a Form 8300 notifying the Government that it sold a piece of merchandise for more than $10,000 in cash, then that person can also be convicted for violating 31 U.S.C. 5324.
The 2 most common bases for seizure are that property either facilitates crime or constitutes proceeds of crime. Facilitating property is simply property that makes a crime easier to commit.
Most people know that the enactment of the Patriot Act gave the Government significant powers to monitor citizens. But what also came with that legislation were significant duties placed upon banks, money service businesses, casinos, and merchants selling merchandise worth more than $10,000 to report suspicious activities. If an employee of a financial institution sees something they regard as suspicious, such as receiving cash that smells like marijuana, or issuing large sums of casino chips that are not gambles but rather turned back into the casino for issuance of a casino check, then they are obligated to file a SAR. The end result is the federal government may come knocking on your door – or worse – seizing your assets for what was nothing more that an oversight or activity that resembled structuring.
In the old days structuring was rarely prosecuted and truth be told, agents are not typically nearly as interested in prosecuting “structurers” as they are forfeiting structured monies. Nonetheless, 31 U.S.C. 5324 is increasingly being prosecuted in addition to launching forfeiture efforts. It is important for businesses to understand that they are not free to deposit or withdraw their money any way they see fit. They must do so in ways that not designed to avoid 8300s and CTRs. If not, they may be prosecuted and are more likely to lose their money to the Government.
States also carry similar laws that have similar seizure and forfeiture powers. Not to be outdone by the federal government, Article 59 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure also calls for such seizures in the state system. Of course, all 49 other states have joined the seizure party. Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio, and smaller jurisdictions such as Wise County all have their own forfeiture initiatives which account for millions in assets.
If you have been arrested for federal structuring charges in Fort Worth, or if your assets have been seized, contact us immediately to discuss your legal rights and options moving forward.