It’s no secret that the Miami real estate boom of the 1970’s and 1980’s was largely funded by cocaine smuggling criminals laundering their cash. But ever since, Miami and the rest of South Florida have been the ideal location to hide money in expensive real estate. This is a problem in any big city, but given the dynamic nature of an international-hub like Miami, laundered money is a particular problem.
There are plenty of high-profile cases pointing to the prevalence of money laundering in Miami real estate. The federal government seized a $5 million suite in the Porsche Design tower, a part of a greater money-laundering scheme worth over $1 billion. A former executive in Ecuador’s national oil company was sentenced to four years in prison after laundering money through six South Florida properties. In 2016, the notorious “Panama Papers” confirmed the Miami real estate market was plagued with laundered money.
How Exactly does Money Laundering in Real Estate Work?
Generally, criminals with illegal money use it to buy high-dollar real estate through anonymous shell companies. The shell companies, commonly headquartered in overseas countries with little regulation, are used to hide the identity of those involved. The Miami real estate market has relatively little oversight to combat such illicit behavior.
A lack of oversight coupled with high property prices creates the perfect environment for criminals looking to launder money in a tropical paradise. However, federal regulators are increasingly attempting to crack down on laundered money in real estate. Since 2016, prosecutions in this field have been on the rise. Aggressive federal investigations have made it harder for those looking to hide their money in Miami. Those facing money laundering charges in South Florida should contact a criminal defense attorney with experience in money laundering matters.