What Are White Collar Crimes?
The term "white-collar crime" is more of a term of art than an actual legal definition. The term is used to describe those prosecuted crimes that are inherently nonviolent and involve either fraud or dishonesty. White collar crime frequently involves financially motivated crimes committed by business executives or government officials. These crimes are almost always financial in nature as opposed to more "physical" crimes such as assault and battery. The term “white-collar” comes from the fact that they are often perpetrated by professionals who are in a position of trust with respect to the assets of other people. These types of crimes typically cause a significant loss for an individual or company. One unique aspect of a white collar crime is that a suspect will often not know they are under investigation until weeks, or even months have passed since the crime occurred. Many types of white collar offenses are a federal crime.
If you are under investigation or already charged with a white collar offense, contact a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer at our law firm to closely examine the details and talk about immediate legal options. Don’t make any statements to police or federal agents as you may incriminate yourself.
Nonviolent white-collar crimes are considered to be serious crimes throughout Los Angeles County. In fact, the number of white-collar crime prosecutions has continued to increase in the state of California. Embezzlement, which involves the theft of property or money by an individual in a position of trust, is a very common criminal offense in Los Angeles.
Common Examples of White Collar Crimes
A white collar crime refers to a wide variety of criminal acts, but some of the most common include the following:
- Extortion: This criminal offense occurs when an individual illegally gains property or money by any kind of force, including threats, violence, property damage, harm of reputation, or unfavorable government action.
- Embezzlement: This crime occurs when a person, typically an employee, who was entrusted with money or property, takes it for their own benefit.
- Ponzi Schemes: A fraudulent investment scam that promises a high rate of return with little to no risk to the investor. This scam generates a return to older investors by acquiring new investors.
- Forgery: Generally refers to the making of a false document, modification of an existing document, or the unauthorized signing of a document.
- Credit Card Fraud: A common form of theft involving the unauthorized taking of another individual’s credit card information with the intent of making purchases or taking money from it.
- Identity Theft: A criminal offense where a person obtains important information of another individual with the intent to steal money or commit a fraud crime.
- Bribery: This occurs when a person offers money, good, or services to another with the specific intent to influence their actions or decisions.
- Insider Trading: Where an individual trades stocks or securities with knowledge of confidential information about a company or event that is not available to the public.
- Money Laundering: A criminal act of illegally filtering obtained money through a series of transactions which are designed to make it appear legitimate.
- Racketeering: Commonly known as the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) providing extended criminal penalties for acts that were performed as part of a criminal organization. This is a federal offense.
- Cyber Crimes: Criminal offenses that are committed using the internet, including theft, child pornography, sexting, identity theft, fraud, among many others.
Anyone can commit a white-collar crime, despite its name. While white-collar crimes occur more often in corporate settings, their commission is not exclusive to such a setting.
The Popularity of Embezzlement
Money makes the world go around. For many, this statement rings true. Individuals need money to pay for housing, food, and other necessities. Money is also necessary to purchase our desired luxuries. The need for money can lead individuals to want to take some money to which they have access. Embezzlement occurs whenever an individual abuses their position of trust and misappropriates another's money or property. Although stories regarding embezzlement tend to involve corporate executives and public official, embezzlement can be committed by any individual in a position of trust. This may include an accountant or even a secretary.
Embezzlement can be charged as both a felony and a misdemeanor in California. The classification will depend on different factors including the total value embezzled, whether or not the victims are of a protected class, and whether or not the funds embezzled were public funds.
Defending White Collar Crimes
Individuals charged with committing a white-collar crime do not forfeit their rights or legal defenses. Often, the general public finds white-collar crimes to be reprehensible and not deserving of legal counsel. This couldn't be more incorrect. A prosecutor must always demonstrate that the defendant committed each element of the white-collar crime. If a prosecutor cannot prove that the defendant committed all the elements of the crime, the defendant cannot be found guilty. Moreover, a defendant may still raise legal defenses that negate elements of a crime. A lack of legal counsel could result in many people who are actually innocent being found guilty unnecessarily. Some common legal defenses raised by an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney in white-collar crime cases include the following:
- Lack of intent: Many white-collar crimes requires the prosecution to show that the defendant intended a certain result to occur. In other words, they must prove the defendant has the intent to commit the crime and intended to achieve the end result. A defendant who does not commit a criminal offense voluntarily, holds a mistaken belief, or did not specifically intend the consequence achieved, could be in a good position to raise a valid lack of intent defense.
- Entrapment: A common legal defense to a white collar crime is entrapment, meaning law enforcement presented the opportunity for the defendant to commit a criminal offense that they would have otherwise not committed. Government officials are not allowed to induce or coerce people to commit a crime. In order to succeed in this type of defense, your Los Angeles criminal lawyer has to prove you were persuaded to commit the offense and you have no predisposition to committing the crime.
- Lack of knowledge of the criminal activity: Many white-collar crimes involves multiple parties. If you can show you were unaware of the illegal activity, it may result in the case being dismissed or an acquittal.
Impact of White-collar Crime Convictions
White-collar crimes convictions can have a negative impact on an individual's professional and personal relationships. A conviction can keep an individual from employment opportunities. It may have a lasting financial impact, and even ruin relationships with family and friends. Importantly, people who are convicted of white-collar crimes may experience extremely significant professional consequences as a result of their criminal record. White-collar crimes tend to involve dishonesty or deceit, which are often taken extremely seriously by professional licensing authorities and employers who are in a position of trust with respect to the assets of others. As a result, if a professional person engages in fraudulent or deceitful conduct for financial gain, it could make it impossible to find similar employment in the future.
Call a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney
White-collar offenses are serious crimes with lasting impact. Fortunately for the accused, not every allegation of a white-collar crime leads to a conviction. There are often many ways that a skilled lawyer can mitigate the potential consequences a defendant is facing. You should consider contacting the experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys at Eisner Gorin LLP if you or a family member has been charged with a white collar crime. Our skilled lawyers are ready to help. Contact us by calling 877-781-1570.