White Collar Crimes

Since the beginning of recorded history, crime has been committed by members in all different segments of society. That includes the well to do and people in powerful and respected professions. However, it was not until 1939 that the term white collar crime was officially coined to refer to crimes committed by professionals or government employees in the course of their employment.

What is White Collar Crime?

There are several different definitions of white collar crime. Many experts agree that the term white collar crime describes nonviolent crimes that are committed by business or government employees. Some definitions require that the alleged criminal be in the middle or upper socioeconomic classes in order for a crime to be considered a white collar crime. These definitions come from different schools that study crime and government agencies that investigate crime. However, there is no state or federal law that defines a white collar crime.

The state and federal laws make specific activities crimes. Some common examples of crimes that are referred to by law enforcement officials as white collar crimes include: embezzlement, health care fraud, securities fraud, insurance fraud, bankruptcy fraud and environmental crimes.

How is White Collar Crime Investigated?

If the alleged crimes are matters of federal law then the FBI will investigate them. The FBI has a written strategic goal of reducing the amount of white collar crime in this country and seeks to reduce it by actively investigating allegations of white collar crime.
If a person’s actions allegedly violate state law then it is likely the state police and district attorney’s office who will investigate the matter.

How are White Collar Crimes Punished?

Some argue that white collar crimes are not vigorously enforced in the United States. They argue that investigators, attorneys and judges are less likely to impose the full weight of the law on those who they deem to be like them and who have not committed a violent crime.

That argument may be accurate and it may be partly based on the fact that the potential sentences for white collar crimes are lower than most violent crimes. The potential sentences are lower because no one was physically hurt and because many white collar criminals are first time offenders and are not thought to be a high risk of being repeat offenders.

However, some white collar criminals have developed and executed elaborate schemes that have resulted in large amounts of money being stolen. Those criminals may have violated more than one law and will likely be treated more harshly than other kinds of white collar criminals.

It is important to remember that there is no such thing as a victimless crime. Most experts agree that white collar crimes are not violent but that does not mean that the crimes do not have victims. Every time a doctor overcharges Medicare for procedures that were not performed or a stock broker engages in insider trading, members of the public are hurt financially. Therefore, the government actively investigates and prosecutes those who commit these and other types of white collar crimes.
 

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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