Even though many people believe that white collar crimes are victimless, in reality everyone suffers from this type of criminal activity. Lying, cheating and stealing are the basic forms of white collar crime. Deception promoted to create financial gain is the objective of white collar crime. The impact of being convicted for white collar crimes can affect your entire future and even that of your family. White collar crimes involve basic dishonesty, which is punishable under state and federal laws.
White Collar Crimes – Civil & Criminal
White collar crimes can be divided into two main areas: civil and criminal activity. The two may overlap in some cases, and that can result in multiple penalties. White collar crimes are criminal acts because they use deception to achieve financial gain; they trick, lie or cheat another person or a company for personal gain. This type of crime can be performed by individuals or by companies. Again, the main objective is financial gain through fraudulent behavior. Stronger criminal penalties are doled out when the crimes cause bodily harm, as happens in the healthcare industry when unscrupulous doctors prescribe treatments or drugs that are unneeded, and actual physical harm or death is the result.
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The term “white collar crime” originated in 1939, and today refers mostly to fraud committed by business and government professionals. These scams can harm many people and companies, so they are not victimless. Financial losses occur when white collar crimes wipe out personal savings, cost investors billions of dollars, destroy a company or result in all three problems. Schemes today are more sophisticated than ever, as perpetrators of fraud utilize modern technology, computers and the internet.
Costs of White Collar Crime
The costs of white collar crime reach amounts that exceed $400 billion yearly in the U.S. These crimes affect more people in America than all other types of crime combined. Healthcare fraud adds about 10% to medical premiums and other industry costs. People who have been scammed into investing their life savings into white collar fraud schemes suffer great financial losses, as do many companies when their boards of directors invest in falsely promoted investments. Individuals who embezzle from their own employers can sink that organization into non-existence. White collar crime costs affect everyone in some way. Some of the heaviest costs are placed upon those persons who commit and are convicted of white collar crime.
White Collar Crime - Statistics
White collar crimes are a growing segment of overall criminal activity. The stakes are higher today, and with modern technology, those who commit white collar crime can hide their activity more easily. Most of the people committing white collar crimes are college educated white males. These men create four times greater losses than losses from schemes carried out by women. The real estate sector is especially prone to being harmed by white collar fraud.
Activities associated with white collar crime include:
- Computer/cyber Crimes: internet or computer fraud, credit card fraud, ID theft, cyber stalking
- Financial Fraud: Embezzlement, conspiracy, identity theft, larceny, mortgage and insurance fraud
- Public Corruption: This occurs when government or state employees or officials abuse the public trust for their own benefit
- Other Crimes: Tax evasion, money laundering, healthcare fraud, insider trading, bribery, forgery and counterfeiting
Sentencing & Penalties for White Collar Crimes
Any sentence or penalty for committing white collar crimes varies. Some cases will involve both state and federal punishments. The U.S. Constitution has a Commerce Clause that puts authority to regulate white collar crime under the federal government. Several agencies, including the IRS, FBI, Secret Service, U.S. Customs, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Securities and Exchange Commission actively participate in enforcing legislation that addresses white collar crime. The states also have their own enforcement agencies.
The sentence may also be affected by any prior criminal record the defendant has on file. Length of sentence also varies, and may be dependent upon the amount of money involved or stolen in that case. Many crimes will carry a prison sentence up to 10 years, plus fines up to $10,000. In addition to jail time and fines, the convicted criminal may also have to pay restitution to their victims and/or have assets seized and sold to repay victims or the state. If a death occurs as a result of white collar crimes, the penalties are much stiffer.
For example, in Massachusetts, a person found guilty of white collar crimes may receive many legal penalties. They could receive a long prison sentence and high fines, be forced to serve hundreds of hours of public service, be put on probation and ordered to pay financial restitution. With a prior record, or if the crime involved theft of a large amount of money, any sentence may be increased. Beyond that, the convicted person will be slapped with a damaged reputation for a life-time, and possibly have a hard time finding future employment. The entire family of a person convicted of white collar crimes may also suffer embarrassment and other negatives due to publicity about the case.
White Collar Criminal Defense Lawyer
An experienced White Collar Criminal Defense Lawyer will fight hard for your rights and to get you the best possible outcome from any trial. Some of the same defenses that are used for other crimes can be useful defending those accused of white collar crimes. An attorney can be instrumental in the defense of immigrants who are accused of white collar crimes and therefore could be facing deportation. All criminal convictions carry the potential for interfering with the ability to retain or obtain professional licenses, remain in this country under a VISA, or hinder the ability to find work in the future. Many employers know that white collar crimes involve basic dishonestly, so they are reluctant to hire persons who have been convicted of such crimes. An experienced White Collar Criminal Defense Lawyer may be able to get charges dismissed, reduced or a criminal record expunged.
While many believe white collar crimes are victimless, the courts do not. If you are facing criminal charges for any white collar crime, it is essential that you work closely with an experienced White Collar Criminal Defense Lawyer immediately.