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What is white-collar crime?

On Behalf of | May 16, 2023 | Federal Crimes

White-collar crimes are generally defined as financial crimes that do not result in any physical harm. One may think that the government is less likely to push for imprisonment due to the lack of physical harm. This is not true. The government has shown time and time again that it will aggressively pursue allegations of white-collar crime and push for harsh penalties.

Why is the government aggressive about these types of crimes?

The government moved forward with cases against over 4,000 individuals in 2022. They are likely motivated by the payoff. Recent data projects white-collar crime costs the country over $300 billion annually.

What are some examples of common white-collar crimes?

White-collar crimes include:

  • Fraud. These are crimes that involve misrepresentations of facts for financial gain. Examples include bankruptcy, healthcare, and government. Mail fraud is another example and involves using the postal service to further the commission of a crime.
  • Money laundering. Moving money around to remove it from connection to criminal wrongdoing.
  • Antitrust and securities crimes. The illegal concentration of power, as in a monopoly, and the misrepresentation of information impacts investment decisions.

Other less common examples include intellectual property theft, corruption, counterfeiting, and espionage.

What are some examples of actual cases?

Enron, the Houston-based energy company, is one of the largest. It was a complex scheme involving executives making false statements about the company’s worth. Enron filed for bankruptcy while the executives left with millions. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) investigated for five years, seizing over $164 million in ill-gotten gains and convicting over twenty, including the chief executive officer, of various white-collar crimes. The court sentenced many business leaders involved in the organization, including an executive who got over twenty years imprisonment for his role in the scheme.

Other examples include Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, Sam Bankman-Fried’s crypto exchange business which currently faces allegations of fraud, and Marth Stewart for security fraud. Although Bankman-Fried’s case is ongoing, the other two served time in prison for their crimes.

What if I am accused of a white-collar crime?

It is important to take the allegations seriously. The government needs to meet certain elements to build its case. A failure to do so can mean the government drops the charges. If you face these allegations, it is important to review them, build a defense, and prepare to fight. As the cases highlighted above, the government will push for harsh penalties.