Maybe business hasn’t exactly been booming in your area – or maybe you’re just desperate for a little extra money to pay an unexpected bill. Whatever the reason, you’re looking around for some ways to get a fast influx of cash.
Be careful. You could end up being recruited into a money-laundering scheme by some criminal organization.
Why do criminals need to “launder” money?
Whether they’re dealing in prostitution, human trafficking, gun smuggling, internet fraud, drug smuggling or something else, criminals tend to make a lot of money – but they can’t spend it openly without attracting unwanted attention from the authorities.
That’s why they need to take money that was obtained through “dirty” (illegal) means and make it “clean,” or appear legitimately earned. After all, what’s the point of all those ill-gotten gains if they can’t spend them, right?
To launder their money, cartels and other criminals often recruit otherwise law-abiding citizens to do the work. Here are three major players:
- Mules: These folks are often asked to move money from one location to another, open bank accounts and start making wire transfers or exchanges. They may be paid well for their efforts because that’s a great way to lure in students, folks who are down on their luck and anybody naive enough to think that what they’re doing has a legitimate business purpose.
- Smurfs: These are often business owners who are willing to take a risk for the cash they need to stay afloat. They don’t want to attract any government attention to themselves, and they’re usually sophisticated enough to disperse large sums of money into seemingly innocuous transactions that look like they’re business-related.
- Shells: These are basically businesses that exist only on paper. While shell corporations can have legitimate purposes, others are created specifically to make it hard to track how money flows through their coffers.
Desperation can drive people to uncharacteristic acts – including money laundering. Do not think for a moment, however, that the authorities won’t come down hard on you if you’re caught. If you find yourself facing money laundering charges, it’s time to seek legal guidance.