You’ve probably heard about ‘white collar crimes,’ but you may not know the precise legal meaning of this term. Generally, white collar crimes are financially motivated, nonviolent, and often involve deceit.
Individuals who work in governmental or business settings are more prone to being charged with white collar criminal offenses. The penalties for these crimes may range from high fines and incarceration to probation, restitution, and community service.
Even though white collar crimes do not involve violence, both the Federal and State law enforcement agencies take them extremely seriously. This means that you can be charged with a particular crime two times – as per Federal law and Minnesota criminal laws.
This is why you must reach out to a criminal defense attorney if you are facing white collar crime charges. We at Ringstrom Law have helped numerous defendants in Moorhead charged with white collar criminal offenses obtain a dismissal or a reduction of charges. Contact us for a free case evaluation.
The History of White Collar Crimes
Certain white collar crimes, like bribery and embezzlement, outdated history because they have existed over centuries. However, it was only in 1473 when there was in existence of a law prohibiting white collar offenses. This law was enacted in the United Kingdom.
Before the 15th century, individuals who committed white-collar offenses did not face any form of criminal sanctions. This position changed when the period of the industrial revolution began. During this period, several monopolistic companies started to develop policies to defeat their competitors. This resulted in low-quality products that were highly-priced. The general public became outraged because they had to purchase items that were not of equal value to their money. Due to this, the government enacted various laws to stop such practices and protect the public interest.
Edwin Sutherland – America's most influential criminologist, is credited to have coined the phrase 'white-collar crime' in his book titled 'Criminology.' This book was published in 1924. According to Sutherland, white-collar offenses are mostly committed by learned individuals who believe that they cannot be easily traced or put to question by governmental authorities.
In the 1990s, there was a group of US-based journalists who specialized in reporting corruption incidents both within the government and in private entities. Since these journalists absconded from presenting regular news to highlighting various instances of bribery and corruption, the members of the public referred to them as ‘the muckrakers.’ Besides corruption, these journalists regularly talked about insider trading and insurance fraud. They managed to incense the public, leading to a clamor for laws that criminalized these acts.
Within the past decade, new white collar offenses have emerged, thanks to the growth of technology and increased financial products. Currently, white collar crimes are prohibited by both Federal law and State law. They carry severe penalties, and most of them are categorized as felonies.
How Law Enforcement Agencies Investigate White Collar Crimes
White collar crimes in Minnesota are investigated by both State and Federal law enforcement agencies. Generally, the FBI is the leading organization that investigates potential white-collar criminal suspects. Apart from the FBI, other organizations that investigate white-collar criminal offenses in Minnesota include the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD), the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). These investigation agencies majorly target complex cases, which are often linked to criminal networks and organized crime, and are sophisticated and multi-layered.
Investigations for white collar crimes may last several months or years. As a suspect of a white collar offense, you may not know that the law enforcement agency is investigating your conduct and activities until you are notified that criminal charges have been instituted against you.
Make sure you get in touch with a white collar defense attorney as soon as you suspect that you are the target of an investigation. Also, you should speak to an attorney even if a law enforcement officer has already affirmed to you that you are not a suspect, but a potential witness.
Common White Collar Criminal Offenses
Some examples of the most common white collar criminal offenses in Minnesota include:
- Intellectual property theft
- Money laundering
- Tax evasion
- Insider trading
- Public corruption
- Environmental crimes
Below, we discuss each of these white collar criminal offenses in greater detail:
It is unlawful to take and distribute creative expressions, inventions, and ideas for financial gain without the consent of the proprietary owner. Due to the rapid growth of digital file technology and the internet, intellectual property theft has become a target for aggressive state and federal prosecution.
As per the FBI, piracy costs US-based business organizations billions of dollars each year, as well as robs tax revenues and jobs. Due to these reasons, the criminal division of the FBI directly prosecutes intellectual property theft suspects. Furthermore, the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center has partnered with the FBI to curb piracy.
Some of the most common activities involving intellectual property theft include:
- Copyright infringement
- Trade secrets theft
- Trademark counterfeiting
- Internet piracy
- Distributing counterfeit drugs
- Counterfeit labeling
- Recording movies that play in theaters
- Pre-release copyright infringement
If you or your loved one has been charged with or is being investigated for piracy, you should quickly reach out to an intellectual property theft attorney. Often, convictions for intellectual property theft bear severe consequences, such as hefty fines and lengthy prison terms.
The criminal offense of money laundering can largely affect your life and those of your loved ones if you have been charged with, convicted of, or under investigations for it. Because the offense of money laundering is primarily associated with international terrorism and organized crime, it has extremely severe penalties.
The term money laundering refers to any activity that involves the disguise of money that is obtained illegally and making it seem to have originated from a legal source. It is mostly the Federal government that can charge an individual with this offense.
The major law that highlights the criminal offense of money laundering in the United States is the 1986 Money Laundering Control Act. According to this law, an individual can be convicted of money laundering regardless of the amount of money disguised to be legally obtained, even if it is just $1.
You can use numerous techniques to ensure you don’t pay taxes. However, both the Federal and State governments impose harsh punishments on individuals who illegally evade paying taxes. Remember, you can legally avoid paying taxes using various ways, including contributing a percentage of your pre-taxable income to a retirement savings account.
The principal organization that usually investigates the criminal offense of tax evasion is the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Often, the IRS knows potential schemes of tax evasion through civil audits. In some instances, someone whom you know, such as an ex-spouse or disgruntled employee, may inform the IRS that you are illegally avoiding paying taxes. No matter which way the IRS starts to suspect you of tax evasion, you should immediately contact an attorney for professional legal advice.
The most prominent schemes of tax evasion that the IRS prosecutes typically in Minnesota include:
- Utilizing a company's money for personal expenses. Here, the owner of a company uses the profits accrued by the company to pay for personal expenses, such as vacations, housing, education, etc.
- Sham trusts. A taxpayer sets up a trust and then turns over his/her home to it to avoid being deducted tax for maintenance expenses. Or rather, a business owner may pretend to turn over his/her business to a trust fund to avoid paying business taxes.
- A business owner deducts taxes from his/her employees, but doesn’t remit the amount of money to the Internal Revenue Service, and instead uses it as capital.
- Employee leasing. In this scheme, a company contracts with a third-party company to manage its employees' payroll. The third-party company collects taxes from the employees but doesn't remit them to the Internal Revenue Service.
Although fraud can stand alone as a white collar crime, most white collar criminal offenses encompass an element of fraud. For instance, for you to be convicted of the criminal offense of identity theft, the prosecution must first prove that you engaged in a fraudulent activity.
The term fraud can be legally defined as an act of deception with an intention to obtain property or money from the victim. In Minnesota, there are various types of offenses involving fraud that can be prosecuted as white collar crimes, including the following:
- Welfare fraud
- Securities fraud
- Cellphone fraud
- Health care fraud
- Credit card fraud
- Bank fraud
- Mortgage fraud
- Wire fraud
- Mail fraud
The Federal government usually prosecutes most of these criminal offenses. In some situations, victims of fraud may institute civil suits against the alleged perpetrator to obtain compensation.
You may be charged with the criminal offense of bribery in Minnesota if you give or receive a valuable item or service or money in exchange for a particular favor or to dissuade an individual from his/her decisions, views, or opinions. There are various types of bribery. These types include:
- Bribery of/by a public official
- Bribery of/by a witness
- Bribery of a foreign official
- Bank bribery
- Bribery in sporting events
It is mostly Federal laws that criminalize bribery as a white-collar offense. For instance, the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act states that it is unlawful for an American corporation to gift a foreign official in order to land or maintain essential business contracts. Also, as per the Banks Bribery Amendments Act of 1985, a banking official who receives a bribe will be punished by a fine that is three times the value of the bribe, or an imprisonment sentence of a maximum of thirty years.
Generally, a conviction of bribery results in lengthy prison terms and hefty fines. This is why you should quickly reach out to a white collar criminal defense attorney if you or your loved one is facing bribery charges.
The criminal offense of embezzlement occurs in situations where a person who is entrusted with some assets or funds mismanages them or utilizes them for his/her own personal benefits. Often, this offense is committed in companies and governmental organizations. In some situations, an individual may change specific figures in accounting documents to conceal his/her embezzlement acts.
Generally, a person who has ready access to several assets or funds that do not belong to him/her may become greedy. Such an individual may steal some of the funds or assets and manipulate the accounting figures to conceal the theft. This way, he/she believes that law enforcement agencies won’t find out. For instance, a bank teller may steal a portion of the funds of the bank, or a store clerk may remove some dollars from the till for his/her own personal use.
For you to be convicted of the criminal offense of embezzlement, the prosecutor must prove that you had responsibility for the money or assets, you embezzled them, and you acted intentionally and contrary to the interests of the rightful owner. Although these elements may seem to be straightforward, they are quite challenging to prove, especially if you have an experienced criminal defense attorney by your side, who can easily discredit the prosecution's evidence.
Practicing insider trading can be both legal and illegal. Usually, legal insider trading is practiced by corporate insiders who may sell and buy shares within the company. Some examples of corporate insiders include the company’s employees, shareholders, and directors. These insiders must report their trade activities to the US Securities Exchange Commission (SEC).
A person will be held to have committed the offense of illegal insider trading if he/she has some information about various stocks that is not privy to the public, and utilizes this information to make profits by buying or selling corporate securities. Often, individuals who are more vulnerable to facing criminal charges for insider trading are affiliated or have a close association with the company.
If you have been convicted of insider trading, you may have to bear both civil and criminal repercussions. Additionally, you may face up to two parallel cases: one filed by the United States Attorney’s Office and the other one filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
In most instances, you will know that you are being investigated for insider trading if a representative from the Securities and Exchange Commission calls you. This representative may ask you several questions about your trading activities. We advise you to avoid answering any questions over a phone call. This is because you can unknowingly make some admissions or incriminating statements that will favor the prosecution’s case. What you need to do is to remain polite and decline to answer the questions until you consult your attorney.
It is mostly government officials and politicians who may face criminal charges for public corruption. The potential consequences upon conviction can be extremely severe, including hefty fines and lengthy prison terms. Furthermore, the reputation and career of convicts of public corruption may be ruined, and their property and money may be seized.
Often, an individual can be charged with public corruption and another white-collar criminal offense, including embezzlement, fraud, bribery, or money laundering. The scope of the criminal offense of public corruption is customarily broad and can cover several alleged illegal acts.
Law enforcement agencies normally devote too much time and resources to public corruption cases. In fact, some agencies have a specialized focus on public corruption, such as the Public Integrity Unit of the US Department of Justice.
It is quite advantageous to hire a white collar criminal defense attorney immediately you find out that you are under investigation for public corruption. Sometimes, a defense attorney can stop the investigations altogether and intervene on your behalf. He/she can also carry out his/her own investigations, evaluate evidence, and research ways to discredit and challenge the prosecution’s evidence. This will increase the chances of a dismissal or an acquittal.
Generally, environmental crimes are prosecuted by federal agencies. This is because they fall under various Federal laws, including the following:
- The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act
- The Clean Water Act
- The Resource and Conservation Act
- The Clean Air Act
In some situations, you may be prosecuted for an environmental crime by a State governmental agency or even an international body, such as Interpol. Regardless of the body that prosecutes you, you will require an attorney to help you build a solid defense.
Some examples of environmental crimes include dumping of contaminated waste into water bodies, oil spills, destruction of wetlands, excessive seepage of emissions, utilizing septic systems that are not approved, burning garbage, and cutting protected trees, among others.
The punishments for these crimes may include probation, heavy fines, and jail time. These punishments will depend on the extent and nature of the crime, your criminal history, and any other pertinent fact that is unique to your case.
Find a Minnesota White Collar Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
Get in touch with us for professional legal advice if you have been charged with or under investigation for a white collar crime in Moorhead. We are here to help you. Call us today at 218-284-0484.