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Showing posts from June, 2008

United States Supreme Court Curtails Federal Money-Laundering Statute

On June 2, 2008 the United States Supreme Court severely limited the reach of the Money-Laundering Control Act (18 U.S.C. § 1956) in two separate decisions. In Cuellar v. United States (2008) 128 S.Ct. 1994, the Court unanimously held that in order to obtain a money-laundering conviction, the prosecution must prove that the defendant specifically intended his actions to conceal or disguise the attributes of the illegally obtained funds.

This interpretation is a sharp deviation from the flexibility that has been attached to the statute since its creation in 1986. A person commits money laundering when he transports illegal funds, “knowing that the transaction is designed…to conceal or disguise the nature, the location, the source, the ownership, or the control of the proceeds of specified unlawful activity.” 18 U.S.C. § 1956. Courts have, however, traditionally interpreted the word “designed” liberally, allowing for convictions when merely the effect, not the intent, of the transpo…