Sharon Cohen Levin

Sharon Cohen Levin is a leading authority on anti-money laundering (AML), Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), economic sanctions and asset forfeiture. Ms. Levin served for 19 years as Chief of the Money Laundering and Asset Forfeiture Unit in the US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York (SDNY). Since 2006, under her leadership, the SDNY forfeited in excess of $13.9 billion, equal to more than 59% of all federal forfeitures in the United States during this period, of which $8.9 billion has been or will be remitted to crime victims. In 2014 alone, the SDNY forfeited in excess of $7.25 billion, the largest amount collected in any year by any US Attorney's Office since the United States Asset Forfeiture Fund was established in the 1980s.

During her tenure, Ms. Levin prosecuted and supervised many of the Department of Justice's most complex and significant money laundering, sanctions and asset forfeiture prosecutions, including the investigation and prosecution of BNP Paribas, SAC Capital, Lebanese Canadian Bank and 650 Fifth Avenue. Ms. Levin has worked closely throughout her career with state and federal banking regulators, the US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC), FinCEN and the Department of Justice. As a result, Ms. Levin brings unique skills to clients seeking representation in complex financial services litigation and compliance requirements for regulated entities.

Ms. Levin is recognized nationally and internationally as a leading authority on money laundering and asset forfeiture. Her experience working on forfeitures recently helped reunite Roman Totenberg's Ames Stradivarius—a rare antique violin that was stolen from him following a 1980 performance—with his family (read InsideCounsel's coverage of this matter). She is also a widely recognized for her work related to the recovery of stolen art and cultural heritage property. She has been the keynote speaker, lecturer and panelist for practitioners, law enforcement officials, judges and international prosecutors on topics of enforcement trends in the financial industry, effective AML compliance programs, money laundering, terrorist financing, US economic sanctions and art recovery. Over the course of her career she has been recognized with 15 prestigious national and international awards and in 2015 was named one of the 75 “most accomplished female attorneys working in the legal profession today” by The National Law Journal.

Past Appearances

AML and OFAC Compliance

  • Panelist, FCPA, AML & OFAC Risks for Private Equity & Hedge Funds, "An Interview with Senior Prosecutors - Enforcement Hot Buttons for Private Equity and Hedge Funds," (March 2015)
  • Keynote Speaker, ACI's 5th Annual Forum on AML and OFAC Compliance for the Insurance Industry,  "U.S. Sanctions - What Insurance and Reinsurance Companies Operating Internationally Need to Know" (January 2015)
  • Panelist, ACI's  5th Annual Economic Sanctions Boot Camp, "Ask the Experts: Question and Answer Panel with Federal and NY State Enforcement Sanctions Officials" (December 2014)
  • Guest Speaker, FINRA NY Enforcement Training Day (November 2014)
  • Keynote Speaker, SIFMA's Compliance and Legal Society New York Seminar (October 2014)
  • Panelist, ACI's Insurance Linked Securities Conference - Federal and State Regulatory Enforcement Roundtable (July 2014)
  • Panelist, ACI's Reinsurance Regulation Anti-Money Laundering Roundtable (July 2014)
  • Panelist,  ACI's AML and OFAC Compliance for the Insurance Industry - Federal and State Regulatory Enforcement Roundtable (January 2014)

Anti-Money Laundering & Asset Forfeiture

  • Keynote Speaker, "Strategic Policies to Control Money Laundering, Drug Trafficking and Other Complex Crimes," Argentine-American Network for Leadership (REAL) and Foundation in Financial Intelligence Research (FININT), Buenos Aires (October 2014)
  • Panelist, "Online Poker in the United States: False Panaceas and Real Hope," C5's Annual Forum on Online Gambling, Las Vegas (September 2014)
  • Panelist, Corporate Accountability Conference, Hong Kong (May 2014)
    • Anti-Corruption Regulation and Enforcement
    • AML, FATCA and Sanctions Enforcement
    • Cyber Crime
  • Panelist, Federal Bar Council, 2014 Winter Bench and Bar Conference, "Asset Forfeiture: What We Need to Know," Costa Rica (February 2014)

Terrorist Financing

  • Panelist, UK HM Government Crime & Terror Conference (October 2012)
  • Panelist, "Trans-Atlantic Dialogue on Combating Crime-Terror Pipelines: Dismantling Converging Threat Networks to Strengthen Global Security," National Defense University, Washington DC (June 2012)

Art and Cultural Property

  • Panelist, "The Written Heritage of Mankind in Peril: Theft, Retrieval, Sale and Restitution of Rare Books, Maps and Manuscripts," a joint seminar presented by the British Library, the Institute of Art and Law, and Union Internationale des Avocats (June 2015)
  • Delivered the Otto L. Walter Lecture, Center for International Law, New York Law School (April 2015)
  • Lecturer, Italy's Carabinieri International Cultural Property Conferences
  • Lecturer, Interpol Cultural Property Conferences
  • Panelist, "Due Diligence in Cultural Heritage Litigation:  Is There a Minimum Legal Threshold?," Holocaust Art Restitution Project (October 2013)
  • Panelist, "So You Think It's Stolen, Now What?," NYCLA (March 2013)
  • Panelist, "Should Stolen Holocaust Art be Returned?," NYCLA (March 2013)
  • Panelist, ABA International Committee, Spring Meeting, "Importing Cultural Objects into the United States" (April 2012)
  • Panelist, "Fine Art Crossing International Borders: Problems & Perspectives," Art Litigation & Dispute Resolution Institute, NYCLA (November 2011)
  • Panelist, "Nazi Looted Art Restitution: Where Do We Go From Here?," NYCLA (November 2011)
  • Panelist, "Restitution: Current Issues in Holocaust-Era Art Cases," ABA Section of International Law/Lawyer's Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation, Bruce Museum (June 2008)
  • Panelist, "War and Peace: Art & Cultural Heritage Law," Cardozo Law School (March 2008)
  • Panelist, "Acquiring Art and Antiquities: What Every Seller and Acquirer Must Know," New York City Bar Association (November 2006)
  • Implications of the EU General Data Privacy Regulation for US Anti-Money Laundering and Economic Sanctions Compliance

    Franca Harris Gutierrez, Sharon Cohen Levin, Bradford Hardin, Jacquelyn Stanley, Zachary Goldman and Nicholas Simons have authored a global chapter in The International Comparative Legal Guide to Anti-Money Laundering 2018. Published by Global Legal Group Ltd (GLG), this is the first edition of GLG’s Anti-Money Laundering (AML) series which provides practical cross-border insight into AML law.

    June 21, 2018
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  • US Regulation of Cryptocurrency as a Type of Financial Technology

    Franca Harris Gutierrez, Sharon Cohen Levin, Bradford Hardin, Jennifer Jacoby Altscher, Zachary Goldman and Nicholas Simons have authored a global-wide chapter in The International Comparative Legal Guide to Fintech 2018. Published by Global Legal Group Ltd (GLG), this is the second edition of GLG’s Fintech series which provides practical cross-border insight into Fintech around the globe.

    June 6, 2018
    Read More


  • Recognized as a Local Litigation Star by Benchmark Litigation (2018)
  • Sanctuary for Families Above and Beyond Pro Bono Award (2017)
  • Recommended by The Legal 500 United States for financial services regulation (2017–2018) and international trade (2017)
  • Named to New York Law Journal's inaugural Top Women in Law list (2016)
  • Recognized by Global Investigations Review on its Women in Investigations 2018 list of lawyers who are “achieving great things in a competitive and notoriously tough area of law”
  • Selected by her peers for inclusion in the Best Lawyers in America (2017-2019)
  • Attorney General's Award for Distinguished Service (2015)
  • Named to The National Law Journal's inaugural list of "Outstanding Women Lawyers" in 2015
  • Four Time Recipient Attorney General's John Marshall Award for Asset Forfeiture (2010, 2007, 2006, 2001)
  • Assistant Attorney General's Award for Exceptional Service (2014)
  • Department of Justice Director's Award for Superior Performance by a Litigative Team (2014)
  • Henry L. Stimson Medal – Presented to Outstanding Criminal Prosecutor in the Southern District of New York (2011)
  • Women in Federal Law Enforcement Award - Outstanding Federal Law Enforcement Employee (2011)
  • DOJ National Asset Forfeiture Award for Sustained Exceptional Service, Lifetime Achievement Award (2009)
  • Anti-Defamation League SHIELD Award (2014)
  • Association for Research into Crimes Against Art - Policing and Recovery Award (2013)
  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement - International Achievement Award (2012)
  • OCDETF 2014 National Award, Special OCDETF Investigation Award, Outstanding Investigation for Exceptional Efforts in Depriving Funding to Foreign Terrorist Organizations
  • 2013 FLEOA Group Achievement Award - Lebanese Canadian Bank money laundering action

Insights & News


  • Education

    • JD, University of San Diego School of Law, 1985

    • BA, Tulane University, 1982

  • Admissions

    • New York

    • District of Columbia

    • Illinois

  • Government Experience

    • Department of Justice

      United States Attorneys' Offices

      Assistant US Attorney, Criminal Division and Chief, Money Laundering and Asset Forfeiture Unit, Southern District of New York
    • Department of Justice

      United States Attorneys' Offices

      Assistant US Attorney, Civil Division, District of Columbia
    • Department of Justice

      Civil Division

      Trial Attorney, Torts Branch