Criminal Law

White-Collar Crimes

Financial crimes can be complex cases that involve large amounts of money. Also known as white-collar crimes, financial theft and fraud can be committed by anyone, including government officials, administrators, or business owners. Unfortunately, because white-collar crimes can be so complicated, innocent people can easily be caught up in financial dealings and face criminal charges.

White-collar crimes should not be handled by just any lawyer. If you are charged with white-collar crimes, you could be facing long prison sentences, large fines, and a felony record. Attorneys who represent defendants in financial fraud can help their clients fight felony criminal charges. The information below provides an overview of white-collar crimes and criminal defense.

What Is White-Collar Crime?

White-collar crime is named for the white dress shirts that are common in office and professional jobs. White-collar crimes refer to nonviolent crimes motivated by financial gain, committed by professionals in government, banking, and other business industries. White-collar crimes can involve large amounts of money or small funds taken over time.

Types of White-Collar Crimes

There are several types of white-collar crime, including:

  • Fraud
  • Insurance fraud
  • Money laundering
  • Mortgage fraud
  • Corporate schemes
  • Forgery
  • Computer crime
  • Embezzlement
  • Health care fraud
  • Securities fraud
  • Investment fraud
  • Ponzi schemes
  • Bribery
  • Counterfeiting
  • Credit card fraud
  • Insider trading

There is no specific law that defines a white-collar crime. However, state and federal laws make specific activities crimes. Someone accused of committing a financial crime may face multiple criminal charges related to fraud, false representations, and organized criminal activity.

Fraud and white-collar crimes may be violations of state and federal law. Even if the criminal activity only occurred in one state, it may still be a federal offense if it was conducted using national banks, the internet, international activity, foreign parties, or the alleged victims lived in different states.

Investigating White-Collar Crimes

White-collar crimes can be difficult to detect. In many cases, the theft will involve small amounts of money over time. With careful record-keeping, the person committing the theft will be able to cover up the smaller amounts so that no one is aware the money is missing. Even if there are only a few dollars taken here and there, it can quickly add up. Over years, the perpetrator may be accused of taking millions of dollars.

Another way these thefts are detected is because of escalated theft. After getting away with it so long, the individual may try to increase the amount taken, until finally, someone begins to suspect there is a problem.

Many financial crimes are initially reported to law enforcement by private businesses, banks, or public institutions. If a corporation or insurance company notices questionable activity, missing property, or accounting irregularities, they may begin with an internal investigation. The business may then contact federal or state agencies to help with the investigation if they believe there may be evidence of criminal activity.

Investigating a white-collar crime often involves multiple parties, including private and government investigators. Some of the law enforcement agencies that may be involved in investigating financial fraud include the FBI, IRS, SEC, state agencies, and the police.

Penalties for White-Collar Crimes

The penalties for white-collar crimes depend on the specific criminal charges, amount of money at stake, and the alleged victims involved. If a white-collar crime is prosecuted as a misdemeanor, it may involve up to a year in jail, fines, and restitution of any money taken.

As a felony, the consequences can be much more severe. Factors that can increase the penalties for a white-collar crime include:

  • Amount of money taken
  • The defendant was in a position of trust with the victim
  • The extent of the criminal enterprise
  • Number of victims involved
  • Whether the crime involved insurance fraud
  • Whether the government was the victim of illegal activity

The potential criminal sentences for white-collar crimes may seem lower than violent crimes. The penalties may seem lower because no one was physically hurt and because many white-collar criminals are first-time offenders and are not thought to be at high risk of being repeat offenders. However, the government actively investigates and prosecutes those who commit financial and white-collar offenses.

Criminal Defense Lawyers for White-Collar Crimes

White-collar criminal offenses for insurance fraud, embezzlement, or other financial crimes can lead to serious jail time. Many people charged with corporate crimes hope that by cooperating with investigators, everything will work out because they did nothing wrong. If you are accused of financial crimes or suspect you are being investigated for fraud, contact an attorney who understands the complex nature of white-collar criminal allegations.