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Criminal Defense Attorney

White Collar & Fraud Charges

These types of cases are often subject to both state and federal prosecution, it is important to work with a lawyer who is comfortable defending a case at any level.

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What is a “White Collar Crime”?

Because numerous high-profile individuals have been convicted of white-collar crimes in recent years, many people believe you must be a celebrity or a Wall Street tycoon to face these types of charges. In reality, white-collar crime is a catch-all term for a variety of criminal offenses that typically involve ordinary people.

The phrase “white-collar crime” was created to describe a range of criminal acts that involve fraud and deceit. According to the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division, the term was first used by a prominent sociologist in 1939 to call attention to the fact that society was so preoccupied with “low-status offender and street crimes,” that offenses committed “by people in higher status occupations” often went ignored.

Because most of these charges involve non-violent crimes committed by office workers in a business setting, the term refers to the type of white dress shirt that was historically worn by corporate employees to distinguish themselves from laborers in the working class. In most cases, as with credit card fraud, embezzlement, tax fraud, securities violations, and identity theft, white-collar crimes involve the mishandling of money.

What Are the Most Common White-Collar Crimes?

Since white-collar crimes fall under both federal and state jurisdiction–and the term itself can be interpreted quite broadly–it can be difficult to determine with any precision what the “most common” crimes are. But generally speaking, here are some of the more commonly prosecuted forms of white-collar crime:

  • Bankruptcy Fraud – When a person is unable to pay their debts, they can file for bankruptcy and obtain relief from a federal court. But if the debtor lies on their bankruptcy forms–i.e., fails to disclose all of their assets–or attempts to “hide” property, the court may refer the matter to federal prosecutors for possible bankruptcy fraud charges.
  • Corporate Fraud – This includes both actual acts of fraud–such as falsifying financial information or insider trading–as well as attempts to conceal evidence of fraud from federal regulators, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission.
  • Embezzlement – This is perhaps the most common type of crime actually committed by white-collar workers; namely misappropriate or otherwise diverting corporate funds for their own personal use.
  • Healthcare Fraud – Texas has seen a significant increase in fraudulent insurance and Medicare/Medicaid billing schemes in recent years; these scams typically involve doctors or healthcare providers billing for non-existent procedures.
  • Identify Theft – If you obtain, possess, or in any way use another person’s personal identifying information for fraudulent purposes, you are committing identity theft; a common example of this is using someone’s Social Security number to take out a credit card in their name.
  • Investment Scams – Often called “Ponzi schemes” or “pyramid schemes,” this is when a person promises high returns on a seemingly no-risk investment; in reality, the scammer relies on a steady stream of new investors to pay inflated returns to existing clients.
  • Mail Fraud – If a person uses the Postal Service as part of a scheme to defraud others, that is considered mail fraud under federal law. Similar laws prevent the use of “wires” or computer networks to further fraudulent schemes.
  • Money Laundering – In its simplest form, money laundering refers to the act of taking the proceeds of illegal activity and attempting to “transform” it into legitimate funds. Money laundering need not involve a complex scheme–simply taking cash earned from the sale of illegal drugs and depositing it in a bank qualifies.
  • Tax Evasion – Many Texans find themselves unable to pay their tax bill when it comes due. By itself, this is not a crime. But similar to bankruptcy fraud, if a taxpayer tries to avoid their tax obligation by furnishing false information to the IRS or giving property away to avoid collection efforts, that may be prosecuted as criminal tax evasion.

What Are the Causes of White-Collar Crimes?

Some people get caught up in white-collar crimes without intending to do anything wrong. These people are often suffering from financial distress and may feel they have no choice but to commit fraud or embezzlement to stay afloat. In other cases, however, white-collar crime is the byproduct of certain workplace environments.

Companies that fail to enforce high ethical standards often become a breeding ground for white-collar criminals. And individual employees who may feel wronged by management–or simply have a sense of entitlement–may feel justified in their actions.

Of course, the law does not care why someone commits a white-collar crime. All that matters is that there has been some form of fraud or deceit resulting in a financial loss to the victim. And oftentimes, these victims are not large, faceless corporations, but individuals who may have lost their life savings in a scam.

This is why federal and state prosecutors take white-collar crime seriously. The mere fact there was no physical violence does not mean the white-collar defendant will get off easy. On the contrary, depending on the specific charges involved, it is not uncommon for white-collar defendants to face decades in prison and thousands of dollars in fines and restitution to the victims.

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Serious Crimes and Severe Penalties

White-collar crimes involve complex transactions that require a thorough understanding of tax law and federal regulations. Because these types of cases are often subject to both state and federal prosecution, it is important to work with a lawyer who is comfortable defending a case at any level. In some cases, federal law enforcement agencies spend months or even years conducting an investigation before charging a suspect. It is not uncommon for individuals to be unaware that they are the subject of a federal investigation.

Because this is often the first time they have encountered the criminal justice system, many white-collar offenders are overwhelmed and intimidated by the experience of being charged with a serious crime. The prospect of a felony conviction and the idea of spending time in prison is emotionally draining.

Additionally, many sentences require the offender to pay restitution for his crimes. If he can’t afford to repay the money, the government can seize assets, such as cars, houses, and other personal property. With so much riding on the outcome of your case, you need a criminal defense lawyer who can quickly assemble an intelligent, effective defense.

What Are the Possible Defenses to White-Collar Crimes?

Every white-collar criminal case is unique. And given the depth and variety of possible charges, it is impossible to briefly list every possible defense that may arise. But here are some of the issues we look at when representing a white-collar client:

  • Did you act with criminal intent? For instance, while tax evasion is illegal, making an honest mistake on your tax return is not a crime. The prosecution must show you acted with some illegal intent.
  • Was there duress? Were you effectively forced to commit the crime by a third party who was really in control?
  • Were you physically or mentally incapacitated–say, due to intoxication–at the time the alleged crime occurred?
  • Was this a case of entrapment? While law enforcement is allowed to conduct undercover operations to apprehend suspects, the government is not allowed to convince you to commit a crime that you otherwise had no intention of committing.

Even in cases where the evidence against you may seem overwhelming, a qualified defense attorney can still assist you in negotiating a possible plea agreement with the prosecution. Indeed, most white-collar criminal cases are resolved this way. In some cases, prosecutors may agree that a defendant will serve little or no jail time in exchange for their cooperation with a larger investigation.

This is why it is always in your best interest to work with an experienced Galveston white-collar criminal defense attorney, even if you are simply under investigation and have not yet been arrested and formally charged. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation so we can sit down and learn more about your situation and how we may be able to serve you.

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