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Avoid becoming an unwitting money laundering accomplice

The flow of currency is what keeps gears of the economy greased. It also happens to be a means by which some criminal elements seek to remove origin traces of the ill-gotten gains. This is done by funneling the money into legitimate businesses and putting the dollars through layers of transactions that make them hard to track. Eventually the money is recombined and it's difficult to know what are legal profits and what are not.

The vast majority of people in Texas and the rest of the country don't engage in these kinds of activities. They know it is against the law. However, it is possible for small business owners to unwittingly become caught up in such schemes. Indeed, they might become aware of it only when the authorities come knocking on the door.

Hypothetically, this is how it could happen. Let's say John Doe opens an ice cream shop in one part of town. Things go well enough to spur dreams of expanding to another part of the community, but John lacks the funds and can't get a loan. Then, someone steps forward (we'll call her Angel Doe) and offers to provide John a loan for his dream. It's all done on a handshake.

The interest John pays is higher than he'd like, but he makes things work. Over time, he pays Angel back and then some.

During that same time, the police investigate and discover that Angel is less than savory and that she's been funneling money through John's business. But before they go after her, they go after John and he finds himself facing criminal charges. They could be state, federal or perhaps both.

Obviously, you want to avoid this situation if at all possible and here are some thoughts on how to do that.

  • Prioritize dealing with legitimate lenders.
  • Seek out legitimate niche resources that offer help based under particular conditions, such as supporting veterans or entrepreneurs in certain groups.
  • Explore government resources that will help you fund your business for at least the first year – and maybe the second.
  • If you do borrow from family or friends, get all the details of the transaction in writing.

If despite precautions you end up accused of money laundering or other financial crimes, seek the help of experienced legal counsel.

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If you or your company is under investigation, charged or indicted for federal or state crimes, or you want to ensure future compliance, contact Hilder & Associates, P.C., for more information or to schedule an appointment with an experienced Houston white collar criminal defense lawyer.

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