White collar crime is named as such because its perpetrators are usually wearing white collars, AKA, office workers. White collar crimes usually involve the theft of money. But unlike robberies and larcenies, which involve force, fear of bodily harm, trespassing, or physical threat, white collar crimes usually involve trickery, lies, deceit, scams or fraud. Although white collar crimes do not usually result in physical harms to the victims, the financial, emotional and psychological toll can be devastating. White collar crimes are usually prosecuted by the individual states according to state laws. However, if a white collar crime occurs across state lines, it’s considered a federal crime and is prosecuted under federal law by the federal prosecutor’s office. Due to the proliferation of computers, more and more white collar crimes are being perpetrated remotely and thus more often than not, are prosecuted as federal crimes.
The punishments for white collar crimes depend on the seriousness of the crime and can range from misdemeanors to felonies. If you have been, or are worried about, being charged with committing a crime, you are urged to talk to a criminal defense attorney to understand your rights and how best to protect yourself from a life-changing criminal record, fines and penalties and potential loss of freedom.
Types of White Collar Crimes
Here’s a list of common types of white collar crimes:
- Embezzlement: Embezzlement is the fraudulent conversion of the property of another by a person who is in lawful possession of the property. Embezzlement happens when the perpetrator has been legally entrusted with property by the owner and then later fraudulently takes the property for his/her own use. The difference between larcenies and embezzlement is that in larceny, the initial taking must be illegal while in embezzlement, the property is legally entrusted to the perpetrator.
- Larceny: Larceny is the tresspassory taking and carrying away of the personal proper of another with the intent of permanently depriving the owner of the property(the intent to steal).
- Fraud: Fraud occurs when there is intentional deception made against a person or a business for the defrauder’s personal gain. Fraud is usually accomplished by trickery such as forging and impersonation. Fraud can be charge additional to other charges like forgery and identity theft.
- Bribery: Bribery is the giving of cash, favors, or something else of value to influence an official’ actions. This can include either the official’s affirmative action in his/her official capacity or the official’s lack of action when he/she had a duty to act. Bribery may include the influence or attempted influence of public officials as well as private or publicly traded businesses.
- Extortion: Soliciting or obtaining money, property or services from another person or business by threat of force.
- Money Laundering: The hiding, re-investing or moment of money gained as a result of illegal activities. Cash revenues gained as result of criminal activities are considered “dirty” and seizable by the police, by reinvesting the “dirty” money into businesses as legitimate profits, the money is “clean.” Thus the term “laundering.”
- Tax Evasion: Tax evasion is the intentional attempt to avoid paying taxes that are rightfully due and through such actions as dishonesty, fraud or other illegal acts.
Of course due to the expansive nature of white collar crimes, the above list is in no means all-inclusive. Just because white collar crimes usually do not involve the use of force or violence does not mean it’s any less of a crime. In fact, most white collar crimes are felonies and should be taken seriously. There are many criminal who are serving long prison terms for white collar crimes. The most notable of these are Bernie Madoff and the officers of Enron.