The term “money laundering” can invoke images of organized crime mobsters engaged in activities such as taking over businesses and using them to hide ill-gotten funds derived from other illegal activities. That may, indeed, be one example of money laundering in practice, but money laundering can include many different kinds of activities some of which may be less obvious than the previous example.

To better understand what money laundering is, it is useful to know that both federal law and New Jersey state law both make it illegal and both have their own definitions for what the term means. According to the U.S. Treasury Department, money laundering generally refers to efforts on the part of those engaged in criminal activity to mislead about how they got their money or from where they got it. Being a federal agency, the Treasury Department is concerned not only with homegrown money laundering activities in the United States but also with money laundering connected with activities outside of the nation’s borders.

Thus, the point organization within the Treasury Department to combat money laundering is the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. A significant part of this office’s activity concerns identifying and combating money laundering activities within the U.S. and international financial systems.

New Jersey, on the other hand, defines money laundering as the act of possessing or transporting property derived from criminal activity, or engaging in transactions involving such property in order to conceal its source, ownership, nature or control, or to avoid legal reporting requirements. The state law also makes it a crime to oversee or indirectly supervise such activity by others. What this means is that under New Jersey law any effort to obtain or otherwise manipulate stolen property – including money – can fall under the definition of money laundering.

Although money laundering is a crime requiring intent to commit it, the range of activities which can be considered to be money laundering in the state could even ensnare people who do not believe that they are engaged in such activity. This post cannot cover all of the aspects of federal or New Jersey money laundering statutes, and is not intended to be legal advice. Anyone who is accused of money laundering in this state should seek the assistance of legal counsel experienced with defending against such criminal charges.