As crime TV shows have become increasingly popular, viewers have learned to think of money laundering as an afterthought to criminal activity.

But, covering up the source of illegally obtained money carries a higher penalty than you might think.

Major and minor crimes can result in money laundering

In popular television shows Sons of Anarchy, the Sopranos and Weeds, the main characters use fake businesses to make their enormous incomes appear legitimate. But, money laundering can also be the result of minor crimes. For example, purchasing something with money that was obtained through gambling could also be considered money laundering.

Other examples of money laundering include:

  • Reselling real estate that was obtained using illegal cash
  • Disguising invoices to hide the amount of money moving through a business
  • Combining illegally obtained income with the income of a legitimate cash business, such as parking or babysitting
  • Bootlegging copies of music or movies

Penalties for money laundering are severe

Money laundering is punishable by felony charges — no matter the degree. That means charges for laundering money could even be greater than the charges for the actual crime.

For example, selling less than 2.5 grams of marijuana can result in Class C misdemeanor charges. However, if you’ve attempted to make the income from the sale look legitimate, you may also face Class 3 felony charges for money laundering that are punishable by two to five years in prison.

The higher the value that is being laundered, the higher the penalties will be. The maximum punishment for money laundering is four to fifteen years in prison for amounts valued over $10,000.

Get legal advice for money laundering concerns

If you’re being investigated for money laundering or facing criminal charges, there are several defenses an attorney may be able to help you prepare to protect your assets and freedom. Talk to a criminal defense attorney about the details your case to learn more about your options.