Ozark: How Does Marty Byrde Launder Money in the Netflix Show?


Cash-based businesses

You ordered 25 air conditioners. Now, the thing is we only installed four […] There’s an estimate here for the swim dock that is ten times higher than any sane human would pay unless said human was making the swim dock out of Carrera fucking marble. There is enough carpeting here for the goddamn mall of America” – Rachel, ‘The Book of Ruth’, Ozark season one.

The Byrde family moves to Missouri with $8 million of drug money to launder, and a deadline. Marty quickly buys two cash businesses with high operating costs in need of renovation – strip club Lickety Splits and the Blue Cat Lodge lakeside inn. He uses them to launder money (pay illegally gained cash into the banking system and process it to make its source undetectable so it can then be withdrawn as untraceable ‘legal’ currency) in two ways: first, by physically mixing the cartel dollars in with the takings paid into the bank, artificially inflating the businesses’ revenues, and second, by exaggerating the businesses’ outgoings and paying vastly inflated sums to cartel-controlled suppliers for imaginary products and services. 

It works like this: The cartel earns millions of US dollars through the sale of heroin and delivers it in cash to Marty. He gradually combines it with the cash takings of his businesses, as well as paying it out to cartel-controlled companies for the supply of goods, most of which will never be received. Renovating the Blue Fish Lodge, for example, Marty might order 100 times the square footage of carpet required but only receive a fraction, enabling him to grossly overpay a cartel-owned business which will be able to bank the cash and legitimise it through the system. He might pay for a ton of pole grease from a cartel-controlled company for Lickety Splits, or of formaldehyde for the funeral parlour Wendy buys, products that the businesses will never see. 

When the Byrdes open the Missouri Belle riverboat casino – another cash-heavy business – they also hire ringers supplied with cartel cash to pose as gamblers and deliberately lose money at the tables as another way of feeding dirty money into a legitimate business alongside the legal revenue.  

Anonymous shell companies

“From Chicago to Panama, Moscow to Tel Aviv, Marty Byrde can make $100 million disappear like spit on a hot skillet.” Carmino del Rio, ‘Sugarwood’, Ozark season one.

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