“White collar crime” is traditionally recognized as a financially-motivated crime committed by people at large companies or those in power positions. While this is often the case, white collar crimes can be committed by anyone. These crimes range from misallocation of client funds to unlawfully usurping government benefits such as Social Security or Unemployment.
White collar crimes are charged almost exclusively at the federal level. The differences between the state and federal court systems are vast, but federal crimes are generally far more severe and carry much greater punishments than state crimes. A criminal can be charged at the federal level if the underlying crime involves anything that spans across state borders, such as a crime scheme organized via the internet, the telephone, or physical transportation over state lines (consider: child pornography online, drug trafficking across state or federal borders). With the vast information accessible via the Internet, many federal crimes also arise out of unlawful action taken online. Some of the primary white collar crimes today include:
- Commingling client accounts
- Wire fraud
- Insider trading
- Computer crimes
- Mortgage fraud
- Credit card fraud
- Identity theft
- Evading taxes
- Bank Fraud
- Price gouging
- Any other fraud or impropriety regarding funds or identity
As you can see, most of the above crimes involve some form of dishonesty in financial settings that can be accomplished via the internet or telephone. Most of these crimes also involve misrepresentation (such as identity theft) and impropriety (such as price gouging). The underlying trend of dishonesty in these crimes, in addition to the large amounts of money often at stake in these matters, demonstrate the reasons these charges are so severe and charged at the federal level.
The victims of these crimes are often innocent third parties that are seeking justice for alleged wrongdoing; however, there are many defenses available to those accused of white collar crime that vary depending on the charges filed against you and the circumstances of the case. If you were working at the direction of someone else, for example, or if you did not know or have reason to know that your actions were contributing to unlawful activity, you may have a valid legal defense.