Have you ever heard the term white collar crime? It was coined back in 1939 and according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), it means lying, cheating, and stealing – that’s white collar crime in a nutshell, says the FBI.
White collar crime refers to nonviolent financially motivated crimes. Many white collar crimes and fraudulent schemes are committed by “white collar” professionals or by people who work for a government agency, but not all of them.
Some of the people who commit white collar crimes, such as counterfeiting or identity theft do not wear a suit and tie to work as the term implies.
Although white collar crimes are not violent by nature, they are not victimless crimes. Some fraudulent schemes can ruin a person’s credit, and some of the schemes can defraud investors of millions, while others can wipe out a family’s entire life savings.
Often, white collar crimes are committed by educated professionals who are in a position of influence and power, and due to the complex nature of some crimes, the crimes themselves can be difficult for government agencies to crack.
Common examples of white collar crime, include:
- Bank fraud
- Money laundering
- Securities fraud
- Check fraud
- Identity theft
- Healthcare fraud
- Insurance fraud
- Bankruptcy fraud
White collar crimes, especially those committed by professionals often involve a series of sophisticated, highly complex transactions. Because of their complex nature, whistleblowers can be very helpful to the government agencies that investigate and prosecute the internal crimes committed within some of America’s largest companies.
Just some of the government agencies involved in investigation such corruption include the FBI, the SEC, and the IRS. Are all white collar crimes prosecuted on the federal level? Not necessarily. White collar crimes are criminalized and prosecuted under both state and federal legislation, with the penalties generally being stiffer is prosecuted in the federal court system.
Identity theft for example, is illegal under both state and federal law. As a state offense, the “criminal use of personal identification information” is criminalized under Sec. 817.568. So, in Florida, identity theft can be prosecuted as a felony of the third degree, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a fine not to exceed $5,000.
On the federal level, identity theft is criminalized under 18 U.S. Code Sec. 1028. The punishment for identity theft under the federal statute is a fine and up to 20 years in prison depending on the facts of the case.
If a Florida resident is facing identity theft charges, which are illegal under both state and federal law, the state and federal prosecutors will decide whether the defendant should be prosecuted in state or federal court.
If the facts of the case are serious enough or involve a large amount of money, there is a strong possibility that the defendant will be prosecuted in federal court. White collar crimes are often committed by:
- Doctors (insurance fraud)
- Fund managers
- Corporate executives
- Business managers
- Loan officers
- Many more professionals
One of the most notorious white collar criminals is Bernard Madoff, whose massive fraud scheme cost investors $65 billion. After Madoff’s elaborate Ponzi scheme led to his arrest, he was convicted in 2009 and sentenced to 150 years in federal prison.
In Madoff’s particular scheme, he promised investors large returns on their investments. What he was actually doing was using the money from new investors to pay older investors, instead of investing the funds as promised.
Eventually, angered investors demanded their money back, and Madoff did not have the capital to repay them, which led to the discovery of his elaborate scheme and a one-way trip to federal prison.
Are you being accused of committing white collar crime?
If you are being accused of committing a white collar crime in Tampa, you could be facing state or federal charges. Due to the severity of your situation, you NEED a defense attorney who handles state and federal criminal defense. Call Thomas & Paulk, P.A. to work with a team of former prosecutors who practice in the state and federal courts!