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Since the enactment in 1986 of the federal money-laundering statute, aggressive enforcement and broad interpretation of key elements of the statute have raised serious concerns that the power of prosecutors in utilizing the statutes has been unfairly and improperly expanded.

Prosecutors often seek to lodge money-laundering charges where the alleged “laundering” conduct is virtually indistinguishable from the underlying offense. That expanded power includes the ability to exact harsh penalties for money-laundering charges that far exceed those available for the underlying predicate offense. The prospect of a higher sentence often allows prosecutors to obtain plea bargains that may not be in the interest of justice. Thus, even the mere threat of a money-laundering charge can be a powerful weapon for the prosecutor in the negotiating process.

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