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Money Laundering Offenders, 1994-2001

ADVANCE FOR RELEASE AT 4:30 P.M. EDT Bureau of Justice Statistics
THURSDAY, JULY 17, 2003 Contact: Stu Smith


WASHINGTON, D.C. - About 18,500 defendants faced federal money laundering charges in U.S. courts during the years 1994 through 2001, the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) reported today. Approximately 10,600 of these defendants had a money laundering charge as the most serious offense, and of these almost 9,170 (86 percent) were convicted.

In 2001, the latest year for which the data are available, federal district courts disposed of 1,420 money laundering cases, convicting 1,243 defendants (87.5 percent). Of those convicted, 91 percent pleaded guilty and 9 percent were found guilty following a trial. The money laundering amounts ranged from $2,000 or less to more than $100 million with about 20 percent of cases involving more than $1 million.

Money laundering involves the conversion of illicit assets and their use to promote additional crimes (Money Laundering Control Act offenses) as well as offenses in which the financial institutions circumvent their reporting requirements, that is, Bank Secrecy Act violations.

The Money Laundering Control Act offenses comprised the bulk (84 percent) of the defendants charged with money laundering as the most serious offense in 2001. Financial institution violations made up the remaining 16 percent. Sixty-three percent of the Money Laundering Control Act charges involved fraud, bank embezzlement, transporting stolen property and counterfeiting. Sixteen percent were associated with drug trafficking. Seven percent involved witness tampering, customs violations and violent crimes.

The National Money Laundering Strategy is co-directed by the U.S. Departments of Treasury and Justice. The effort coordinates law enforcement responses against money laundering organizations and systems and provides overall coordination among federal, state and local law enforcement jurisdictions.

Various law enforcement agencies referred 121,818 criminal matters to U.S. Attorneys during 2001, of which 1,437 were money laundering matters. Money laundering cases can be complex and may involve multiple law enforcement agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the U.S. Customs and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The FBI (27 percent of all matters referred) and the IRS (28 percent of all matters referred) reported the most cases to U.S. Attorneys during 2001.

The federal judicial districts with the most referrals included the Southern District of Florida in Miami (106 cases), the Southern District of New York in Manhattan (83), District of Puerto Rico (78), the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn (71), the Southern District of Texas in Houston (64) and the Middle District of Florida in Tampa (55). Almost half (44 percent) of all federal money laundering matters were referred in the six geographic areas designated by the U.S. Departments of Treasury and Justice as areas of high risk for financial crimes/money laundering activity (High Intensity Financial Crime Areas or HIFCA's).

The majority of the defendants charged with money laundering during 2001 were individuals. Less than 2 percent were commercial firms. The 22 commercial defendants charged included auto dealerships, grocery stores, banks, furniture stores, construction firms and beauty shops. Individual defendants convicted in 2001 were mostly male (80 percent), citizens of the U.S. (77 percent), over 35 years old (70 percent) and white (52 percent). One in three money laundering defendants had a prior adult conviction.

Money laundering offenders may face penalties of prison terms of up to 20 years, fines of up to $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved and possible criminal and civil forfeiture of the value of the property or funds involved in the transaction. Among defendants convicted in 2001, nearly 3 out of 4 received a prison term with an average sentence of slightly more than 4 years. Twenty-one percent of defendants convicted received a fine - the median fine was $2,750.

The special report, "Money Laundering Offenders, 1994-2001" (NCJ-199574), was written by BJS statistician Mark Motivans. Single copies may be obtained by calling the BJS Clearinghouse at 1-800-851-3420. In addition, this document can be accessed at:


The Bureau of Justice Statistics is a component of the Office of Justice Programs, which provides federal leadership in developing the nation's capacity to prevent and control crime, administer justice, and assist victims. OJP is headed by an Assistant Attorney General and comprises 5 component bureaus and 2 offices: BJS, the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the National Institute of Justice, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, and the Office for Victims of Crime as well as the Executive Office for Weed and Seed and the Office of the Police Corps and Law Enforcement Education. Information about OJP programs, publications, and conferences is available on the OJP Web site, www.ojp.usdoj.gov.

BJS media calls should be directed to Stu Smith in OJP's Office of Communications at s[email protected] or 202-307-0784. After hours: 301-983-9354.


Date Published: July 17, 2003