10 Types of White Collar Crimes That Carry a Hefty Sentence
November 21, 2023
The term “white collar crime” refers to non-violent, financially motivated criminal offenses. White-collar crimes are often mistakenly characterized as less serious offenses; however, the truth is that many white-collar crimes can be charged as high-level felonies that carry correspondingly harsh sentences for a conviction. Understanding the various types of white-collar crimes is the first step toward protecting yourself and avoiding a conviction.
Who Investigates and Prosecutes White Collar Crimes?
In the United States, both state and federal authorities can investigate alleged criminal conduct. The U.S. judicial system then allows a defendant to be prosecuted at the state and/or federal level. While state laws also make a variety of white-collar crimes illegal, it is the federal government that investigates and prosecutes the majority of serious white-collar crimes. Law enforcement agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) investigate white-collar crimes which are then prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).
Types of White Collar Crimes
The term “white collar crime” was first coined about a century ago by a sociologist who defined the term as “a crime committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of his occupation.” That definition has not changed substantially in the intervening decades. Today we apply the term “white collar crime” to non-violent criminal offenses that typically use deceit or concealment to obtain a financial, personal, or business gain. Common types of white collar crimes include:
1. Money laundering
Intentionally hiding the source of illegally obtained money by “cleaning” the money such that it eventually appears to be legally obtained profits.
The fraudulent appropriation of property by a person to whom such property has been entrusted, or into whose hands it has lawfully come. Unlike theft, embezzlement starts with a lawful transfer of money or property that then becomes unlawful.
3. Medicare and Medicaid Fraud
A knowing misrepresentation of the truth to obtain unauthorized benefits from the Medicare or Medicaid program.
4. Identity Theft
Wrongfully obtaining and/or using the personal data of another person for financial or personal gain.
5. Cybercrimes and Computer Crime
The use of the internet and/or computer systems to commit other crimes such as fraud, sex trafficking, or dissemination of child pornography.
6. Racketeering/RICO Charges
Federal law makes it a crime for anyone “employed by or associated with any enterprise engaged in, or the activities of which affect, interstate or foreign commerce, to conduct or participate, directly or indirectly, in the conduct of such enterprise’s affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity or collection of unlawful debt.”
7. Antitrust Violations
Unlawful mergers and business practices that violate federal anti-trust laws including the Federal Trade Commission Act, the Clayton Act, and the Sherman Act.
8. Insider Trading
Using confidential information to gain an unfair advantage while trading on the stock exchange.
9. Ponzi and Pyramid Schemes
Complex schemes that are used to defraud victims of money or property. Ponzi schemes use incoming investor’s money to pay profits to older investors while pyramid schemes involve investors on the bottom of the pyramid paying the investors on the top.
10. Mail and Wire Fraud
Mail fraud requires the mailing of a letter, advertisement, or other correspondence for the purpose of defrauding victims while wire fraud involves an intent to defraud using electronic communications, including a telephone, television, or the internet.
What Should I Do If I Am Under Investigation for a White Collar Crime?
Although we think of white-collar crimes as “less serious” crimes because they are financially motivated, these crimes are charged and punished the same as many “serious” violent criminal offenses, often carrying a potential sentence of 20 years or more in prison if convicted.
If you have reason to believe you are being investigated for a white-collar crime, the time to protect yourself, your assets, and your future is now. Contact The Federal Defenders to discuss your legal rights and options by calling 800-712-0000 or contacting us online.