The term “white collar crime” is used to describe a range of non-violent offenses, such as forgery, money laundering, insider trading, embezzlement, and identity theft. It’s not just business owners who can be charged with these crimes; individuals could also face legal consequences for engaging in these activities. White collar crime usually operates by unlawfully depriving people or businesses of financial assets, from cash to stocks. Today, many white collar crimes are committed over the Internet, though phone and wire fraud are still common forms of white collar crime.
There is a tendency to think of white collar crime as something that’s only committed by Wall Street executives or CEOs of large corporations, but many people and businesses may be committing minor forms of white collar crime without even realizing it. Failing to properly declare revenues, gaining insider knowledge of stock performance, and illegally downloading music or films can all be classed as white collar crime – and all of it can be punishable with prison time and significant fines because of the potential harm it causes to the public.
Most states will have laws against fraud, money laundering, and other forms of white collar crime in their respective penal codes. For example, Article 470 of the New York State penal code defines money laundering and transaction fraud as a felony that is punishable by up to 25 years in prison. Other states will have similar laws on their books in order to protect the public as well as the state economy.
Federal charges can be brought for white collar crimes that are committed across state lines. The FBI can often pursue these charges if especially serious crimes have been committed. They estimate that white collar crime and associated financial fraud costs the U.S. economy up to $660 million each year, and consider it to be a threat to how the nation functions as a whole.
Extremely lengthy prison sentences have been handed down for white collar crime. For example, Bernie Madoff, who ran a Ponzi scheme which deprived many people of their life savings, was sentenced to 150 years in prison. Other lesser offenses have resulted in prison sentences of a decade or more.
White collar crime investigations are carried out by the state or the federal government, and can take months or even years. Businesses or people who have been accused of such crimes need to make sure that they have appropriate legal counsel before (and even after) charges are brought. State and federal investigators will take evidence, both physical and electronic, to determine if a crime has been committed, and will bring appropriate charges if they feel there is sufficient reason to do so.
If you are facing an investigation for white collar crime, you need a lawyer who is well-versed in state and federal laws surrounding these types of crimes. Qualified legal counsel will help you organize a defense against any charges that might be brought against you, or even help prevent your case from going to court entirely. Being charged with a white collar crime could cause you to lose your business, your assets, and your personal freedom; it’s simply not worth the risk.
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