All About the Money: Exploring White Collar Crimes

Criminologist Edwin Sutherland coined the term “white collar crime” in 1939, and it remains the umbrella term to define crimes eliciting financial gain. Wearing a white collar means you’re a person of high economic status: someone who is invested in society with a lot to lose. Sutherland actually used white-collar crimes to prove how criminal behavior is learned from social phenomena. This translates into today’s world as well-connected people in power at large corporations commit many white-collar crimes.

White collar crimes are committed regionally, nationally, and internationally. With an increase in technology and schemes to embezzle, launder, and manipulate, these types of crimes are increasingly sophisticated. Consequently, federal agencies have adapted to become deft at tracking perpetrators. Let’s focus on the most popular white-collar crimes investigated by the FBI.

Currently, one of the highest priorities of the FBI is health care fraud. Agents target medical providers when they use illegal practices, falsify records, or provide for uncovered services. Individuals can become targets if they illegally use policies, falsify claims, stage fake accidents, illegally dispense prescribed or non-prescribed drugs, or lie to obtain medical coverage. Even insurance companies can be prosecuted for illegally denying coverage, evading state regulations, and fraudulently collecting premiums.

Another significant FBI priority is corporate fraud. This occurs when a corporation deceives investors or auditors about the true worth of their company. Another type of fraud is insider trading, which includes trading on the stock exchange based on confidential information. To conceal illicit activity, many white-collar criminals also use money laundering to hide financial sources and evade taxes.

Other types of white-collar crimes include securities and commodities fraud, investment fraud, bribery, Ponzi schemes, labor racketeering, embezzlement, cybercrime, copyright infringement, identity theft, and forgery.

As you can probably tell, white-collar crimes all involve a lot of money. With so much potential damage to the nation’s economy, as well as the livelihoods of numerous employees, the FBI has partnered with other federal agencies to remain diligent about catching perpetrators, including the Internal Revenue Service, Department of Labor, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

Similar to online piracy, a common misperception is white-collar crimes are victimless. While illegal actions and practices may seem invisible, they result in tangible harm. The FBI estimates white-collar crimes cost the US $300 billion each year. You can see why the government cracks down on these types of cases and encourages whistleblowers to submit tips, as well as demand cooperation of low-level defendants against more significant targets.

Sometimes, but not always, a white-collar suspect receives a “target letter” indicating they are the subject of a criminal investigation; other times the FBI shows up and makes an arrest. Therefore, a competent attorney experienced in white-collar criminal defense is essential.

White-collar crimes are harshly punished. Sentences may be substantially reduced if the client has the right representation. If you think you have committed one of these financial wrongdoings or have received a letter targeting you for investigation, contact a defense lawyer immediately. Also, read this blog outlining what to do if you receive a threatening letter, then contact me for what to do next.

Remember, white-collar crimes imply the perpetrator has a lot to lose: reputation, professional license, assets, and freedom. With the right representation, you can protect what’s most valuable—your family, time, and financial security.

Chase Geiser