the money is in these accepted forms, criminals can effectively use the funds to
finance illicit activities such as illegal narcotics trafficking,
illegal weapons sales,
human trafficking, fraud, political corruption, child pornography, and terrorism.
Recognizing this problem, Congress has passed several regulatory measures in
the civil code, starting with the Bank Secrecy Act of 1970 (“BSA”), which forbids
the export of more than $10,000 of undeclared monies, requires financial institu-
tions to have adequate anti-money laundering (“AML”) programs, and requires fi-
nancial institutions to file suspicious activity reports (“SARs”), among other
Subsequent amendments allowed the Treasury Department to enact
additional rules, such as requiring all businesses that wire money internationally to
register with the government, file a report for all transactions exceeding $750,
report suspicious activity, and furnish the names of both the transferor and the re-
Regulatory requirements, however, have limited impact because they
impose obligations on legitimate financial institutions, which only indirectly inhib-
its suspected money launderers.
To avoid triggering reporting requirements, sus-
pects simply structure their transactions to fall below reporting thresholds.
The Money Laundering Control Act of 1986 (the “Act”) added teeth to the BSA
by criminalizing money laundering.
Then, the terrorist attacks of September 11,
2001 and the financial crisis of 2008 motivated Congress and the executive branch
to expand the Act through the International Money Laundering Abatement and
Anti-Terrorist Financing Act of 2001 (“IMLAFA”), thereby broadening existing
rules and enforcement efforts to combat money laundering.
The Act’s expansive
definition of “money laundering” criminalizes a broad spectrum of organized
3. See generally GUY STESSENS, MONEY LAUNDERING: A NEW INTERNATIONAL LAW ENFORCEMENT MODEL
(2000) (discussing the U.N. Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances,
opened for signature Dec. 19, 1988).
4. See generally PAUL ALLAN SCHOTT, REFERENCE GUIDE TO ANTI-MONEY LAUNDERING AND COMBATING
THE FINANCING OF TERRORISM (2d ed. 2006) (referring to Chapter 1, defining money laundering and the scope of
6. 31 C.F.R. § 1010 (2019); see also Transfer and Reorganization of Bank Secrecy Act Regulations, 75 Fed.
Reg. 65,806 (Oct. 26, 2010).
7. See Stephen Jeffrey Weaver, Modern Day Money Laundering: Does the Solution Exist in an Expansive
System of Monitoring and Record Keeping Regulations?, 24 ANN. REV. BANKING & FIN. L. 443, 446–48 (2005);
see also Adams, supra note 2, at 536.
9. See USA PATRIOT Act, Pub. L. No. 107-56, § 302, 115 Stat. 272, 296–97 (2001) (stating that the
IMLAFA amends the Act by expanding the list of predicate offenses that give rise to a money laundering charge,
including corruption and export control violations; it also expands the international reach of prosecutors); Jessica
Silver-Greenberg & Ben Protess, Money Laundering Inquiry is Said to Aim at U.S. Banks, N.Y. TIMES (Sept. 14,
2012), www.nytimes.com/2012/09/15/business/money-laundering-inquiry-said-to-target-us-banks.html (noting
additional resources were allocated to prosecute banks).
10. See generally Jonathan H. Hecht, Airing the Dirty Laundry: The Application of the United States
Sentencing Guidelines to White Collar Money Laundering Offenses, 49 AM. U. L. REV. 289, 293–300 (1999)
(discussing background of Money Laundering Control Act). The IMLAFA amended 18 U.S.C. § 1956
expanding the list of predicate offenses. USA PATRIOT Act, Pub. L. No. 107-56, § 315, 115 Stat. 272, 308–09
1224 AMERICAN CRIMINAL LAW REVIEW [Vol. 58:1223