There are three main steps to money laundering that a criminal must go through to launder their money successfully. The three steps to money laundering are the placement stage, the transformation stage, and investment stage.
The first step of placement is attempting to get the money out of your control and into another place. What this does is removes the dirty money from your possession and puts it into the control of someone else — leading into the next stage called transformation.
The transformation stage is when the dirty money starts to mix in with the clean money and gets shuffled around, getting farther and farther away from where the dirty money originated. This can be accomplished by investing the money into different businesses and then pulling the money back quickly and getting even less than you started with, but the money is now cleaner than it was when you put it in.
The final step of money laundering is called the investment stage in which the new money that has been taken back from the investments with the dirty money. This is the hardest stage of laundering to detect as the money has already been washed clean and is now in circulation along with the clean money.
Money laundering is used when dirty money from some criminal organization or criminal activity is acquired. For example, if drug money is acquired by a drug dealer, that money would be considered dirty. If the dealer were looking to hide how he received the money, he would begin to go through the process of laundering money to “clean” it.
Money laundering is still very prevalent today as there are still millions of dollars passed in this way each and every year because it is one of the more difficult crimes to detect. This is the reason criminals have gotten so good at turning the dirty money into clean money, making it even harder to detect. Then they turn the newly cleaned money into purchases or investments which then gets the money out of there possession and almost impossible to identify.