In a prosecution for money laundering, the People are not required to prove dollar for dollar tracing between the illegally obtained funds and the monetary transaction. Defendant, the former controller at a law firm, was convicted of eight counts of money laundering after an accountant identified a total of 524 unauthorized checks written against the firm’s payroll account and made out to defendant totaling over $1 million. He appealed, arguing that the prosecution did not sufficiently prove that at least $5,000 alleged to have been laundered was derived from the proceeds of criminal activity because the money was commingled with legally obtained money in defendant’s bank account. Held: Affirmed. A person is guilty of money laundering if he conducts a transaction involving a monetary instrument of a value exceeding $5,000 through a financial institution knowing that the instrument represents proceeds of, or is directly or indirectly from the proceeds of, criminal activity. (Pen. Code, § 186.10, subd. (a).) People v. Mays (2007) 148 Cal.App.4th 13, required dollar for dollar tracing if the illegally obtained money was commingled with legally obtained money in a defendant’s bank account. Mays relied on a federal case, which is recognized as a minority view. This Court of Appeal declined to follow Mays and adopted the majority view that dollar for dollar tracing is not required. Money is fungible, and when funds obtained from unlawful activity have been combined with funds from lawful activity, the funds cannot be distinguished from each other. Therefore, when a defendant is charged with money laundering, “the prosecution must demonstrate that the amount of the illegally obtained funds equals or exceeds the amount of the transaction, whether or not the illegally obtained funds have been commingled with legally obtained funds. [Citation.] The prosecution need not trace every illegal dollar to the monetary instrument.” Under this standard, there was sufficient evidence to support defendant’s convictions for money laundering.
The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/archive/G055187M.PDF