Referring to crimes committed by persons of respectability and high social status through their occupation, one of the most influential criminologists of the 20th century, Edwin Sutherland, coined the phrase “white collar crime” in 1939. The name came from the fact that these criminals characteristically wore suits rather than the blue-collared shirts of industrial workers.
Today, white-collar crime is usually financially motivated, nonviolent, and committed by business and government professionals – but you don’t need to wear a suit or a white collar to be charged. If you’re worried that you may have been involved in what may be considered a “white collar crime,” this post includes information about the most common types.
Generally speaking, white collar crimes comes down to the illegal movement of money – how someone obtains it, how it’s hidden, and how it is ultimately used. Your charge – if you end up being charged – will likely be determined by where you are involved in this process.
Because of this, we’re going to talk about acts that constitute white collar crimes from the perspective of how the money is moved.
Illegally Obtaining Funds
There are three ways white-collar criminals tend to obtain funds: fraudulently convincing someone to give them money, embezzlement, or bribery.
Fraud, by far, is the broadest classification. Most simply, it involves deceiving someone somehow for monetary gain. The majority of white-collar crime is either a form of fraud or can ultimately be connected to fraudulent activity. Corporate fraud, insurance fraud, identity theft, cyber crimes – if you’ve watched the news at all in the last decade, these are not unfamiliar terms to you.
Specifically, corporate fraud – Enron, Lehman Brothers, Bernie Madoff – probably comes to mind. It’s one of the FBI’s highest investigative priorities, and the list of specific acts under this heading goes on and on. Misrepresenting corporate financial conditions, insider trading, kickbacks, market manipulation, Ponzi and pyramid scheme – those are just a few, each classified by its own set of circumstances.
Insurance fraud can be as small as a single individual attempting to collect on a policy by including false information on claims, or as large as big businesses defrauding their customers in the open marketplace.
Additionally, continued advancements in technology have inadvertently led to greater numbers of identity theft and other cyber crimes due to easier direct access to people and their private information.
If you think you’ve been involved in fraudulent activity, but aren’t positive exactly how, a knowledgeable Colorado criminal defense attorney will be able to help you sort out the details.
Embezzlement is much easier to define than fraud. It is the act of improperly taking money from someone to whom you owe some type of duty. You’ve probably heard of an employee siphoning money from an employer into a personal account, but any manner of improperly using employer or client funds (a broker making unauthorized transactions, for instance) also may be considered embezzlement.
Bribery involves paying someone in a powerful position to do something – or do nothing – which results in benefits for either, both, and/or other parties involved. Although it can be difficult for federal regulators to prove and prosecute, individuals on either side of transactions like these may be held accountable.
Hiding Illegal Funds
When large sums of money can’t be legitimately explained, criminal activities are usually involved in hiding the illegally obtained funds.
One method is by simply not claiming the money. This is tax evasion. Related crimes range from including false information on tax forms to avoiding tax obligations via illegal property transfers. Tax law is complex, so there are endless ways to commit this crime. On the other side of that coin, there are just as many ways to misunderstand how to file correctly. A defense lawyer with a track record of success in this area can help you clear up any misfiling.
The other method includes both hiding and using illegally obtained funds: money laundering, the criminal act of filtering “dirty” money through transactions designed to make it appear legitimate or “clean.” The process allows criminals to hide and accumulate wealth, and it is often linked to a whole host of other related criminal activities.
Using the Money
The last shift in white-collar movement of money pertains to how the funds are used.
If “dirty” money is being laundered, part of the process involves layers of complex transactions, likely passing through many hands, to erase any trace of its connection to illegal origins.
Now that you know better how your activities may be classified, your next step is researching your rights and finding your best legal defense. Because any situation involving white-collar crime often involves complex processes, savvy businessmen, and state or federal prosecutors, all with extensive resources at their disposal, it is important to know how you may have willingly, unknowingly, or otherwise become involved.
About the Author:
Since 2005, Jeffrey L. Weeden has been practicing criminal defense law in Colorado and has helped countless clients protect their rights and freedoms as a respected, caring, hard-nosed criminal defense attorney. Over the course of his career, Mr. Weeden’s work has been recognized in numerous ways, including being named to the Top 100 Trial Lawyers list by The National Trial Lawyers, earning a 10.0 “Suberb” Avvo rating, receiving Martindale-Hubbard’s highest peer review rating — AV Preeminent, and being asked to speak on several issues of interest to the legal community. Additionally, he is someone who cares deeply about his community and those in need, and is an active member of a number of professional legal organizations, including the Rocky Mountain Children’s Law Center and Law Firm Pro Bono Coordinators.