In an effort to provide more information to the Government regarding the movement of currency (usually cash), Congress requires financial institutions (and certain individuals, such as attorneys) to report to the Government any time an individual withdraws more than $10,000 in currency or deposits more than $10,000 in currency (for this purpose, currency includes money orders, cashier’s checks and the like in denominations of under $10,000).
To prevent people from avoiding the reporting rules, Congress has criminalized efforts to avoid the reporting requirements by criminalizing what is referred to as "structuring". Structuring is not the actual depositing or withdrawing money from a bank but rather breaking up a single amount and then either depositing or withdrawing such amount in under $10,000 amounts with a least one of the purposes to be to avoid the issuance of the report.
To be guilty of the crime it is not necessary that the person realized it was a crime to avoid the report (and in one case it occurred when a bank officer asked a gambler to deposit smaller amounts so he wouldn’t have to file the reports so often), only that was one of the purposes of structuring the deposits or withdrawals.
The consequences of being found guilty of structuring include a felony conviction (loss of voting rights and the right to have a fire arm), possible imprisonment and forfeiture of the money that was structured. At least where the structuring consists of depositing funds into a bank, the defendant usually finds out about the problem when he discovers that the account (or at least that much of the account) has been frozen and very shortly thereafter (perhaps before they he or she is even aware the account has been frozen) they receive a "visit" from two criminal agents with the IRS who attempt to determine the motivations behind the staggered deposits.
While the statute provides that all structured money is to be forfeited, if the Government can not establish that it was, in effect, the fruits of another crime (drugs for example), the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution prohibits excessive fines and normally only a portion would be forfeited by the Court. Similarly, sentencing issues are very complex in this area. Having two or more structuring events (not the deposits or withdrawals themselves as multiple deposits can be part of a single structuring event) during 12 months for over $100,000 can substantially increase the likely jail term as can tying the structuring to other crimes such as tax evasion.