Asset Forfeiture in Money Laundering Cases
An allegation of financial misconduct such as money laundering may result in criminal and civil consequences including asset forfeiture by the federal government. Federal Criminal Attorneys at Norman Spencer Law Group are here to help if you face the government nationwide!
Asset forfeiture is one of the most commonly used tools the federal government uses in prosecuting money-laundering cases. Asset forfeiture may be of criminal and civil nature. Prosecutors utilize both federal and civil statutes to seize laundered funds as well as any assets purchased using those funds. They can also go after the assets such as bank accounts that were used in money laundering. This can happen even if the assets had been unknowingly purchased or received by innocent third parties who had nothing to do with the scheme.
What Are Your Rights If You Face Assets Forfeiture?
If you are the defendant in the money-laundering case or a third party, the answer depends on whether the government is seeking criminal or civil forfeiture. Criminal forfeiture is brought directly against the owners of the assets as part of a criminal case and litigated during the trial. If the person is convicted, the assets in question become forfeitable when the jury returns a verdict that the assets should be forfeited. If you are a third party, you may not take part in the criminal case; you will have to wait for a special hearing after the criminal trial to assert your claims.
Criminal Asset Forfeiture Vs. Civil Asset Forfeiture
Unlike criminal forfeiture, civil forfeiture is the action against the assets themselves, not the person, assuming that the assets were involved in the illegal scheme. Also, unlike criminal forfeiture, in civil cases, assets can be seized without any charges filed. To seize the assets, the government must only show probable cause that the property was involved in illicit activity. Once probable cause is proven, any party who wants to assert claims must show, by a preponderance of the evidence, that they are innocent owners.
Criminal Asset Forfeiture
Criminal forfeiture is controlled by several federal statutes. Generally, courts will order forfeiture of the defendant’s property that was either involved in the offense or traceable to property that was involved in the offense.
Criminal forfeiture proceedings begin with the prosecutors seeking a restraining order against a future defendant’s assets. They can ask the court for a restraining order either before or after indictment. When an indictment is filed, the government can ask for a restraining order against property alleged in the indictment to be subject to criminal forfeiture. In post-indictment restraining orders the government does not have to give notice to any potential claimants.
Pre-Indictment Restraining Orders
If the government is seeking a pre-indictment restraining order, the process is different. Parties who wish to assert rights on the property must be given notice and an opportunity to be heard. Before federal court issues a pre-indictment restraining order, it has to establish that there is a substantial probability that the government will win on the issue of forfeiture and that there is a serious risk that if the restraining order is not entered, the property will be destroyed or removed from the court’s jurisdiction, or otherwise made unavailable for forfeiture; and “the balance of equities weighs in the government’s favor”. Normally a pretrial restraining order is effective for ninety days. It may be extended for good cause.
Sometimes, instead of seeking a pre-indictment restraining order, the government will seek a temporary restraining order for which they do not have to give notice to potential claimants. In that case, the government must prove that (i) there is probable cause to believe that if the defendant is convicted, the property would be subject to forfeiture and that giving notice would jeopardize the availability of forfeiture. A temporary restraining order may be effective for only up to ten days and may be extended for good cause.
Norman Spencer Law Group Attorneys Represent Defendants in Federal Criminal Forfeiture Proceeding Nationwide
There are several approaches to defending clients in federal criminal forfeiture cases. One way is to argue that a higher, reasonable doubt standard applies and not the lower, preponderance of the evidence standard and that the issue of criminal forfeiture should be separated from general issues of guilt or innocence.
What If You Are the Innocent Owner?
If you are a third party and have an interest in assets that are court-ordered criminally forfeited, you must ask the court for an ancillary hearing. This is done by filing a petition with the court within the allowed time period, usually, thirty days after the government gave notice. During the hearing, you will have to prove by the preponderance of the evidence that you are an innocent owner. For this, you must prove that you are either a bona fide purchaser who acquired a right, title, or interest in the property without reasonable cause to believe the property was subject to forfeiture; or that you are an owner with a title, right or interest in the property that at the time of the wrongdoing was superior to that of the defendant.
International Seizures and Substitute Assets
At Norman Spencer Law Group, highly qualified federal lawyers represent clients in international asset seizure cases.
With money laundering investigations extending across the globe, a person may face several investigations in various countries. Also, the government may try to have a defendant’s overseas assets forfeited in the United States.
In the United States courts may order a defendant’s overseas assets seized before trial and forfeited after trial, but to mean anything, such an order has to be enforced in the foreign jurisdiction. The United States takes part in some mutual legal assistance treaties and other international agreements. If the reciprocating country is part of the agreement, the US Court’s order will be enforced there. Otherwise, the United States Government will ask a foreign government to seize assets subject to forfeiture using the Letters Rogatory, which is a request that is governed by ideas of international comity. In the past, some countries have agreed to help the US Government in seizing and forfeiting illegal proceeds inside their borders. Vienna Convention is one of the most commonly used international agreements used to make such requests. Under the Vienna Convention, the receiving country may either completely recognize a forfeiture order of the requesting court or may start its own proceedings.
Why Norman Spencer Is Your Best Choice in Asset Forfeiture Cases
No matter where you are, our federal attorneys are here to help you! You can put our years of experience dealing with the federal government at your service. Besides highly qualified attorneys there are other professionals on our team. We have former federal law enforcement agents, forensic accountants, certified fraud investigators, and private investigators. We understand the rules of the game and we hold the government to its obligations. Call our office today to speak with a federal defense attorney!