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Money Laundering

The crime of money laundering can take many different forms, but the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) notes on its website that the offense “can be defined very simply as turning ‘dirty’ money into ‘clean’ money.” When a person or organization allegedly launders money, it is usually an attempt to conceal the origins of proceeds that were illegally obtained.

Money laundering is a criminal offense under both Texas state law and federal law. Many of these types of offenses are directly related to illegal drugs and/or terrorism, which frequently results in aggressive prosecution and possible penalties that can include very lengthy prison sentences and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.

Attorney for Money Laundering Arrests in Houston, TX

If you were arrested or believe that you might be under investigation for an alleged money laundering offense anywhere in southeast Texas, it is in your best interest to say absolutely nothing to authorities until you have legal counsel. Horak Law defends clients charged with white collar crimes in Fort Bend County, Galveston County, Harris County, Liberty County, Montgomery County, Waller County, and Brazoria County.

Houston criminal defense lawyer Matt Horak is licensed in all state courts in Texas as well as the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas. He will provide a complete evaluation of your case as soon as you call our firm at (713) 225-8000 or toll-free at (800) 225-8009 to take advantage of a initial consultation.


Harris County Money Laundering Information Center


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Texas Money Laundering Penalties

Texas Penal Code § 34.02(a) establishes that a person commits the offense of money laundering if he or she knowingly:

  • acquires or maintains an interest in, conceals, possesses, transfers, or transports the proceeds of criminal activity;
  • conducts, supervises, or facilitates a transaction involving the proceeds of criminal activity;
  • invests, expends, or receives, or offers to invest, expend, or receive, the proceeds of criminal activity or funds that the person believes are the proceeds of criminal activity; or
  • finances or invests or intends to finance or invest funds that the person believes are intended to further the commission of criminal activity.

Under Texas Penal Code § 34.02(a-1), knowledge of the specific nature of the criminal activity giving rise to the proceeds from money laundering is not required to establish a culpable mental state. Money laundering offenses are classified according to the amount of money involved in the alleged offense and are punishable as follows:

  • $2,500 or more but less than $30,000 — State Jail Felony punishable by up to two years in prison and/or fine of up to $10,000;
  • $30,000 or more but less than $150,000 — Third-Degree Felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or fine of up to $10,000;
  • $150,000 or more but less than $300,000 — Second-Degree Felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and/or fine of up to $10,000; or
  • $300,000 or more — First-Degree Felony punishable by up to life or 99 years in prison and/or fine of up to $10,000.

Texas Penal Code § 34.02(c) establishes that it is a defense to prosecution for money laundering that the alleged offender acted with intent to facilitate the lawful seizure, forfeiture, or disposition of funds or other legitimate law enforcement purpose. Additionally, Texas Penal Code § 34.02(d) also states that is a defense to prosecution for money laundering that the transaction was necessary to preserve a person ’s right to representation as guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution and by Article 1, Section 10, of the Texas Constitution or that the funds were received as bona fide legal fees by a licensed attorney and at the time of their receipt, the attorney did not have actual knowledge that the funds were derived from criminal activity.


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Federal Money Laundering Penalties

Because many alleged money laundering offenses involve funds obtained from other states or even other countries, alleged offenders can face federal charges. Under Title 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(1), an alleged offender commits the crime of laundering of monetary instruments if he or she, knowing that the property involved in a financial transaction represents the proceeds of some form of unlawful activity, conducts or attempts to conduct such a financial transaction which in fact involves the proceeds of specified unlawful activity:

  • with the intent to promote the carrying on of specified unlawful activity;
  • with intent to engage in conduct constituting a violation of section 7201 or 7206 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986; or
  • knowing that the transaction is designed in whole or in part to conceal or disguise the nature, the location, the source, the ownership, or the control of the proceeds of specified unlawful activity; or to avoid a transaction reporting requirement under State or Federal law.

Title 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(2) makes it illegal for a person to transport, transmit, or transfer, or attempt to transport, transmit, or transfer a monetary instrument or funds from a place in the United States to or through a place outside the United States or to a place in the United States from or through a place outside the United States:

  • with the intent to promote the carrying on of specified unlawful activity; or
  • knowing that the monetary instrument or funds involved in the transportation, transmission, or transfer represent the proceeds of some form of unlawful activity and knowing that such transportation, transmission, or transfer is designed in whole or in part to conceal or disguise the nature, the location, the source, the ownership, or the control of the proceeds of specified unlawful activity; or to avoid a transaction reporting requirement under State or Federal law.

Violations of Title 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(1) and Title 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(2) are punishable by fines of up to  $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved in the transaction, whichever is greater, and/or up to 20 years in prison. Under Title 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(3), an alleged offender can also be sentenced to 20 years in prison if he or she conducts or attempts to conduct a financial transaction involving property represented to be the proceeds of specified unlawful activity, or property used to conduct or facilitate specified unlawful activity with the intent to:

  • promote the carrying on of specified unlawful activity;
  • conceal or disguise the nature, location, source, ownership, or control of property believed to be the proceeds of specified unlawful activity; or
  • avoid a transaction reporting requirement under State or Federal law.

Title 18 U.S.C. §1957 establishes the crime of engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity, which makes it illegal for a person to knowingly engage or attempt to engage in a monetary transaction in criminally derived property of a value greater than $10,000 and is derived from specified unlawful activity. Convictions for engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity are punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine in accordance with Title 18 U.S.C. § 3571 – Title 18 U.S.C. § 3574 or up to twice the amount of the criminally derived property involved in the transaction.


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Texas Money Laundering Resources

Narcotics | City of Houston — The Narcotics Division of the Houston Police Department handles the suppression of illegal possession, manufacture, and distribution of controlled substances. The division is comprised of several investigative specialized squads, including the Houston Money Laundering Initiative (HMLI). Visit this website to learn more about the multi-jurisdictional task force that intercepts narcotics trafficking profits through the identification, arrest, and prosecution of money launderers and their organizations.

Houston Police Department
1200 Travis St.
Houston, TX 77002
(713) 884-3131

Houston Chapter | Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists (ACAMS) — ACAMS identifies itself as "the largest international membership organization dedicated to advancing the professional knowledge, skills and experience of those dedicated to the detection and prevention of money laundering around the world, and to promote the development and implementation of sound anti-money laundering policies and procedures." The ACAMS Houston Chapter was created to increase awareness of best practices in anti-money laundering (AML) prevention and offer members an open forum to exchange ideas with local law enforcement and industry professionals. On this website, you can find information about the chapter, its board, and upcoming events.


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Horak Law | Houston Money Laundering Defense Lawyer

Do you think you could be under investigation or were you already arrested in southeast Texas for an alleged money laundering offense? No matter how confident you are in your innocence, do not make any kind of statement to authorities until you have legal representation. You will want to contact Horak Law as soon as possible.

Matt Horak is an experienced criminal defense attorney in Houston who represents individuals in Pasadena, Pearland, Richmond-Rosenberg, Spring, Sugar Land, The Woodlands, Conroe, Galveston, Houston, League City, Missouri City, and many other nearby areas of Harris County. Call our firm at (713) 225-8000 or toll-free at (800) 225-8009 today or submit an online contact form to have our lawyer review your case and help you understand all of your legal options during a confidential consultation.


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Our Office in The Woodlands
1790 Hughes Landing Blvd #400 The Woodlands, TX 77380 (281) 907-4990
Our Office in Houston
5300 Memorial Dr #750 A Houston, TX 77007 (713) 225-8000
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Matt Horak Matt Horak is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization since 2014

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