What are White Collar Crimes?
February 19th, 2021
Contributor: R. Mark Warren
Closely related to theft and larceny, white collar crimes are financially motivated criminal offenses, often involving deceit, concealment, and violation of trust to secure an economic advantage. Although most are non-violent in nature, white collar crimes are serious and can come with steep penalties. Not only may those who are accused of financial crimes have to endure a lengthy and stressful criminal investigation, but a conviction can lead to severe consequences that can significantly impact your life and livelihood.
White Collar Crime Definition
White collar crime doesn’t refer to just one specific crime — rather, the term includes a broad scope of financial-related offenses that may be charged under state or federal law. They may be committed by business professionals, public officials, directors of nonprofit boards, and individuals for corporate or personal gain.
Even though the facts surrounding every white collar crime allegation are different, every offense generally involves obtaining property from another under false pretenses. A person may act alone in committing a white collar crime, or in concert with a group of others. Since white collar crimes typically don’t involve the same kinds of physical evidence as in an assault or property damage case, investigations can be complicated and time-consuming.
Types of White Collar Crimes
White collar crime includes any kind of crime committed for economic gain. Public corruption, Ponzi schemes, conspiracies, corporate fraud, environmental violations, counterfeiting, mortgage fraud, health care fraud, and internet fraud are just a few examples of chargeable offenses.
Other types of white collar crime in North Carolina include:
- Embezzlement — Unlike larceny, which involves obtaining money illegally, embezzlement is the misappropriation of funds that were placed in one’s trust.
- Identity Theft — Under North Carolina law, identity theft occurs when a person knowingly uses another’s identity information to gain a financial benefit or other advantage.
- Forgery — A person commits forgery in North Carolina when they create, alter, or possess counterfeit documents such as financial instruments, wills, deeds, corporate securities, and educational certificates.
- Tax Evasion — Willfully failing to pay taxes, underreporting, and falsifying tax documents are punishable offenses under both state law and federal law.
- Money Laundering — The crime of money laundering is the concealment of money through a complex series of transfers to hide the illegal origin of the funds.
- Mail and Wire Fraud — These types of white collar crimes are schemes that are carried out using a mail carrier or electronic communication in an attempt to defraud someone.
- Bribery — The crime of bribery involves giving something of value to influence another’s judgment or conduct. An individual may be charged with bribery in North Carolina whether they initiated the activity or consented to receive the bribe.
- Extortion — A person who threatens another or communicates a threat to obtain something of value may be charged with extortion in North Carolina.
A conviction of a white collar crime in North Carolina can have serious ramifications. Not only can it cause damage to your reputation, career, and ability to secure future employment, but your freedom may be at stake also — a prison sentence can range from a few months to several years.
White Collar Crime Punishment and Penalties
White collar crimes may be charged under state or federal law, depending upon the circumstances and the statute that was violated. Critically, many white collar crimes are charged as felonies in North Carolina — as opposed to misdemeanors — and carry significant penalties including jail time, restitution, and fines. Those accused of economic-related crimes often face prison sentences that are just as severe as those imposed for violent crimes.
North Carolina has a complex sentencing structuring system for felonies and misdemeanors. White collar crime punishments and penalties are determined by several factors, including the severity of the offense and the individual’s prior criminal record. However, if you’re facing a white collar crime charge, even a first conviction can result in a lengthy prison sentence. While the least severe felony charge in North Carolina — a Class I felony — is punishable by a 3-12 month prison sentence, any white collar crime involving more than $100,000 may be charged as a Class C felony and is punishable by 15 years in jail.
How Are White Collar Crimes Defended?
If you have been charged with a white collar crime, it’s crucial to ensure that you have a vigorous defense — being accused isn’t the same as being found guilty. Although white collar crimes can involve circumstances that are much more nuanced than those in violent crimes, the prosecution is still required to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt in order to convict.
While the most obvious defense is proving that you did not commit the criminal act, there are a number of other strategies that a skilled criminal defense attorney may use to secure an acquittal in a white collar crime case. For instance, if you can show that you lacked the intent to commit the crime, or didn’t have knowledge that it occurred, you may have a viable defense. You may also be able to avoid conviction if you can prove you were physically threatened and coerced into committing the crime under duress.
In many cases, an individual who has been charged with a white collar crime may be able to effectively negotiate a plea deal with the prosecution. Sometimes, accepting a plea bargain can result in a reduction in the charges or more lenient sentencing. However, since you are giving up your right to a jury trial and admitting guilt by entering into a plea bargain, any offer by the prosecution should be carefully evaluated and discussed with an experienced defense attorney.
Contact an Experienced North Carolina White Collar Crimes Attorney
If you’ve been accused of a white collar crime or are facing investigation and criminal charges, it’s critical to contact a knowledgeable defense attorney immediately who can protect your rights. A diligent white collar crime defense attorney can assess your case and develop a comprehensive strategy to help ensure the best possible outcome. Our North Carolina criminal defense attorneys at The Twiford Law Firm are committed to providing aggressive advocacy and skillful representation for clients charged with state and federal white collar crimes. With offices located in Moyock and Elizabeth City, we serve clients throughout Northeastern North Carolina. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.
Categories: Criminal Defense