Skip to Content
Call Us Today! 312-436-0638

What Is Money Laundering?


Money laundering is the process by which criminals conceal their illicit proceeds and make them appear to be legitimate funds or assets. This is often accomplished through one or more transactions with the intent to conceal the original source of ill-gotten gains.

Money laundering is a serious white collar crime in Illinois. The least severe penalties one can face for this crime include a prison sentence between two and five years and fines up to $25,000. We’ll discuss penalties in more detail later on. For now, let’s delve a little deeper into what money laundering actually looks like.

Examples of Money Laundering

Money laundering gets its name from the attempt to “wash” money obtained from illegal activity through various transactions. The more this money changes ownership, in theory, the more difficult it can be to identify its association with illegal activity and who is responsible for that activity.

Some common examples of money laundering can include the following:

  • Layering: This technique involves setting up one or more shell companies to move money around and disguise its origins. The launderer moves funds from one company to another in a complex sequence of transactions, making it hard for investigators to track the source.
  • Smurfing: This method involves breaking up large amounts of cash into smaller deposits made in different banks or businesses. It’s often done by multiple people (a “smurfing” team) to avoid triggering red flags that would alert authorities and lead to an investigation.
  • Trade-based laundering: In this scenario, the launderer uses fake invoices or other documents to disguise the nature of an exchange between two companies. The launderer will typically overstate the value of goods or services in order to convert more cash into another asset type (like a luxury car).
  • Money mules: These people work as couriers, transporting cash and other assets from one place to another on behalf of criminals. They may also be used to open bank accounts or receive wire transfers on behalf of the launderer.

Money laundering charges involving cryptocurrency are also becoming more common. This involves using digital currencies to hide money and move it around, though law enforcement is more aware of this phenomenon and more money laundering charges involving crypto are appearing as a result.

Penalties for Money Laundering in Illinois

Money laundering is a felony in Illinois, but the degree of the felony one can face depends on the amount of money allegedly laundered.

Here is how money laundering can be punished in Illinois:

  • Charges involving $10,000 or less: Class 3 Felony, prison sentence of two to five years, and up to $25,000 in fines
  • Charges involving $10,000 to less than $100,000: Class 2 Felony, prison sentence of three to seven years, and up to $25,000 in fines
  • Charges involving $100,000 to less than $500,000: Class 1 Felony, prison sentence of up to 15 years, and up to $25,000 in fines
  • Charges involving more than $500,000: Class 1 Felony penalties apply without possibility of probation

As you can see, the stakes are high no matter which level of money laundering charge you’re facing. This is why it’s essential to seek legal counsel that you trust to help you defend against the allegations against you.

For legal assistance when you need to defend against such charges, reach out to the Law Office of Steven Fine today!