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White-Collar Crime Definition

Key Takeaways:

  • White-collar crime generally doesn't involve any violence, threats, or assault.
  • Committing a white-collar crime involves lying, concealing, exaggerating, and misrepresentation.
  • Blue-collar crimes generally involve a more hands-on approach, such as theft, shoplifting, or violent crimes.

White-collar crimes include financial crimes like fraud, embezzlement, or computer crimes. White-collar criminals can face serious prison time, fines, restitution, and a felony record. The information below provides an overview of white-collar crimes and criminal defense. For legal advice in your situation, contact an experienced white-collar defense attorney.

What Is White-Collar Crime?

White-collar crime describes a range of non-violent criminal activity done for financial gain. There is not a clear legal definition of white-collar crime. It generally involves money, real estate, property, services, securities, stocks, and other assets.

Examples of white-collar crimes are:

The term comes from the standard, white-collared business shirt and ties office workers and managers wear.

Understanding White-Collar Crime

White-collar crime is an informal catchall term, not the name of a specific crime. White-collar crime encompasses a wide variety of criminal activity. The common factor is that it is a non-violent crime perpetrated for financial gain.

While non-violent, state and federal laws treat these crimes seriously. Both state and federal governments investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The penalties depend on the exact crime and the amount of money involved.

Many white-collar crimes are felonies that carry significant prison time. The most famous example from recent years is Bernie Madoff. Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison for his multi-billion-dollar Ponzi scheme that spanned decades.

The organizations that investigate white-collar offenses include:

The IRS enforces compliance with the federal tax code. They investigate any reported criminal activities and partner with these other organizations.

Most white-collar crimes have an element of self-dealing. This is where the person with fiduciary responsibility for an asset breaches the trust placed in them and acts in their own best interest. A typical example of this is insider trading.

Penalties include jail or prison time, fines, and paying back the money taken from a person or company.

Corporate Fraud

Corporate fraud is sometimes considered the most complex white-collar crime. It can run through large corporations or government organizations, span countries, and involve millions or billions of dollars. Large-scale crimes can affect the economy, change investor patterns, and bring significant losses to employees and investors.

Such crimes may have many moving parts, such as making false documents, keeping false records, falsifying reports and data, making incorrect valuations, and having many people involved in the scheme.

While most white-collar crimes have elements of these crimes, corporate crime tends to be the most significant scale.

When Should You Contact a White-Collar Criminal Defense Lawyer?

Many white-collar fraud schemes start with an internal investigation. After a company is tipped off to possible illegal activity, they may call law enforcement officers to take over the criminal offenses. It would be best to speak to a lawyer as soon as you become aware of an investigation. A criminal defense attorney can help protect you before criminal charges are filed.

If you have already been charged with a financial crime, a criminal defense lawyer can investigate your case and develop a legal defense strategy. Your attorney can also negotiate with prosecutors and law enforcement to reduce the criminal charges and help you avoid jail time. Find a criminal defense attorney who understands white-collar criminal law.

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