Serving Greater Phoenix – Scottsdale, Glendale & Mesa

Arizona prosecutors take white collar crimes such as money laundering very seriously. Because money laundering often involves other offenses such as fraud, drug trafficking, and racketeering, the repercussions may be long-lasting — a conviction for money laundering can result in a lengthy prison sentence, steep fines, asset forfeiture, and other penalties. Give such harsh consequences, having a Phoenix criminal defense attorney on your side is crucial.

Arizona Lawyers has extensive experience defending clients against money-laundering charges throughout the state of Arizona. Our legal team believes that anyone accused of white-collar crime is entitled to the powerful representation we are prepared to provide. When you become our client, we will work tirelessly to protect your rights and your freedom.

What is Money Laundering?

Money laundering is generally defined as a financial transaction scheme in which funds that were made through unlawful activities are transferred into legitimate resources (e.g. a bank, business enterprise, or offshore account) while concealing the identity, source, and destination of the ill-gotten gains.

Under Arizona law, this occurs when a person knowingly acquires or maintains an interest in, transactions, transfers, transports, receives or conceals racketeering proceeds (money derived from a wide variety of criminal activities), with the intent to conceal the illegal source of the funds. Some common methods of money laundering include:

  • Transferring money among numerous bank accounts or dividing large sums of money into smaller deposits
  • Purchasing legitimate forms of money (e.g. cashier’s checks, money orders) with the ill-gotten gains and then depositing those items into a bank account
  • Commingling unlawfully acquired funds with legitimate funds in a single bank deposit
  • Making cash purchases with the illegal funds and then reselling the items in a legitimate market (e.g. eBay)
  • Depositing illegally obtained funds into an offshore bank account

Any of these activities can be charged as second-degree money laundering (the most common charge), while charges of money laundering in the first-degree are reserved for those who knowingly initiate, organize, plan, finance, direct, manage, or supervise such activities, in other words, the leaders of money laundering schemes.

A person can be charged with third-degree money laundering for conferring anything of value to a money transmitter or an employee of the transmitter, with the intention of influencing or rewarding that person for failing to comply with applicable Arizona law. The charge also applies to an employee of a money-transmitting business who accepts something of value in exchange for failing to comply with any similar legal requirement. Finally, a person can also be charged for being a link in a scheme even if they are unaware of the crimes.


Under Arizona law, the penalties for money laundering are as follows:

  • First-Degree — Considered a Class 2 felony, first offense punishable by up to 12.5 years in prison, second offense between 4.5 and 23 years in prison, third offense between 10.5 and 35 years in prison.
  • Second-Degree — Considered a Class 3 felony, first offense punishable by up to 8.75 years in prison, second offense between 3.5 and 16.25 years in prison, third offense between 7.5 and 25 Years in prison.
  • Third-Degree — Considered a Class 6 felony, first offense punishable by up to 2 years in prison, second offense between 9 months and 2.75 years in prison, third offense between 2.25 and 5.75 years in prison.

Federal Money Laundering Charges

It is worth noting that money laundering can also be a federal offense, in which case the charges and penalties are more severe. A federal conviction is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $500,000. Moreover, the government can seize or freeze assets such as cash, bank accounts, real estate, automobiles or other property connected to a money-laundering scheme or criminal enterprise.

Contact Our Phoenix Defense Attorney

To gain a conviction, state and federal prosecutors must be able to prove that the defendant was aware of the unlawful source of funds and understood the transaction was intended to conceal detection of funds obtained from the criminal activity. At Arizona Lawyers, we have the knowledge and skills to assert a number of defenses against charges.

The strongest defense is to show that you lacked criminal intent to conceal funds or that you were not aware that the funds were obtained from illegal activity. Depending on the circumstances, we may also be able to show that you participated in the crime under duress (e.g. threat of harm by a drug trafficker). If you have been accused of money laundering, don’t leave your freedom and your future hanging in the balance. Contact our office today for a free consultation.