What is “structuring” cash transactions?
Many people, including many business owners and professionals, are not aware of the federal crime of “structuring” cash transactions. It is very possible to unknowingly violate this law and then face severe consequences. Almost everyone knows about ‘money laundering’ and the government’s efforts to track ‘dirty money’ from crimes such as drug dealing and prostitution. Many people also know that the government requires banks (actually all ‘financial institutions’) to file a CTR (Currency Transaction Report’) whenever a transaction involves more than $10,000 cash.
What many people do not know is that it is illegal to deliberately keep cash transactions under $10,000 to avoid a cash transaction report.
Suppose your business takes in $14,000 cash in one day. To avoid attention at your bank, you deliberately divide the money into two deposits – the first $8,000 and then $6,000 the next day or at a different bank branch. If you intended to avoid a CTR, you have committed a federal crime – violation of Title 31, United States Code, Section 5324 – “structuring” a cash transaction. Structuring can result in a 5 years in federal prison (10 years for aggravated cases), forfeiture of all the ‘structured’ money, and a fine. You may have intended to avoid attention the bank and the government may believe you intended to avoid a CTR.
We have experience defending structuring cases.
Recently, federal agents served search warrants at our Client’s home and the Client’s parents’ home and business. At the same time, the government seized almost one million dollars from Client’s bank accounts. Our Client’s seized money was all deposited in cash amounts under $10,000 and all within a short time period. The government claimed the money was illegally structured into the accounts – in violation of 31 USC §. 5324. The Client’s parents operated a cash business and the Client’s independent income depends on her professional license.
We presented evidence that the Client and her family were law abiding. We also presented evidence that none of the seized money was ‘dirty’ – none of it came from drug dealing or other crimes. After negotiations, no criminal charges were filed against anyone. Our Client did not need to report the search warrant and investigation to his/her professional licensing Board. The majority of the seized funds were returned to our Client and the Client’s family.
The laws concerning ‘structuring’ and similar prohibited financial transactions are very technical and someone can violate the law without intending to do anything illegal. Our experience enables us to work through these situations in the best possible way for our clients.