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What is smurfing?

On Behalf of | May 6, 2024 | Money Laundering

Money laundering is a multi-step process – because it takes a lot to make illegal funds appear legitimate. 

Among the various techniques used by criminals, “smurfing” is a common tactic employed to evade detection and launder large sums of money.

How does smurfing work?

The term “smurfing” originates from the animated characters known for their small size and cooperative nature, reflecting the collaborative efforts of individuals involved in this illegal activity.

Smurfing involves structuring transactions so that they avoid triggering mandatory reporting requirements by financial institutions. It involves breaking down large sums of illicit money into smaller, less conspicuous amounts. 

Frequently this involves slipping cash deposits or other small transactions into the financial system before “layering” the money trail with a string of financial maneuvers to obscure its origins even further. Then, the laundered money can be made to appear like legitimate income or investments, or “integrated” back into the open financial system.

Unfortunately, even legitimate business transactions can exhibit plenty of “red flags” that can draw the attention of the Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Internal Revenue Service – and that can lead to unfair charges of money laundering. In some cases, business professionals are reported by over-cautious financial institutions for “suspicious” activities simply because the banks are trying to avoid undue scrutiny themselves.

Money laundering allegations can take a lot of different forms, and you cannot build a defense without experienced legal guidance. You need to know exactly what you are accused of doing (and how you supposedly did it) before you can consider your options.