Dispelling the Top Two Myths About White-Collar Crimes

White-collar crime is my featured topic for the month of June. As discussed in my previous post, white-collar crimes can involve powerful people, complex schemes, and of course, lots of money. However, many common misperceptions prevail surrounding white-collar criminals, their offenses, and the consequences. Let’s look at a few common myths in need of busting.

White-Collar Criminals Get Off Easy

Criminal penalties for white-collar crimes are severe; relatively simple fraud cases often carry a maximum of 20 years in prison and/or a significant fine reaching six figures or more. Furthermore, approximately 70% of those sentenced for fraud receive prison sentences, and when the loss exceeds $2.5 million, the convicted can spend 5-17 years in prison.

With proper representation, sentences may be reduced, to as little as probation with zero jail time. However, the notion white-collar criminals automatically receive minimum sentences or house arrest is false. Such favorable results are sometimes reached, but only after a thorough examination and mitigation of facts and the evidence. A sophisticated sentencing brief and hearing intended to persuade the judge is also required for a lesser sentence.

Even when the sentence is reduced, negative consequences often result, including loss of reputation and revocation of a professional license required by the state to work. White-collar defendants often face stigma and professional difficulties moving forward, especially when seeking employment. Depending on one’s immigration status, deportation or exclusion from admission to the United States can also be a consequence.

Certain white-collar crimes result in civil cases brought against the defendant by the government, victims, or both. In these civil actions, the government might seek disgorgement, or the turning over of any profits. In some cases, asset forfeiture is sought, which means anything purchased with the illegal proceeds are seized. These are all very real “collateral” consequences of white-collar cases and reflect the need to obtain expert legal counsel at the outset of any criminal investigation.

Prosecutors are Afraid of Powerful Defendants

Since some white-collar criminals possess ties to government officials, and some are bankers who employ thousands of hard-working citizens, one might speculate federal agencies fear taking down major players. Not true. Prosecutors use stringent tracking tactics, regardless of the suspect’s title, whether it be wiretaps, subpoenas, pen registers, informants, or “flipping” marginal defendants in order to secure their cooperation. This is why it’s so important to hire a criminal defense specialist as soon as you know you’re the target of an investigation. Such preemptive measure on your part can help prevent damage to your reputation, career, and freedom.

Just as it’s difficult to ascertain the truth about white-collar crime from its many misconceptions, it’s just as easy to unwittingly make mistakes that can be misconstrued as fraud. Navigating sometimes murky finance and business waters can be challenging, even for the most careful and astute individuals. It’s therefore crucial to understand when, even inadvertently, you may be crossing lines.

If you’re worried about an action that may fall in a grey area, you should preemptively hire a criminal defense attorney. And, if you are the subject of a criminal investigation, you should always immediately seek counsel. Never engage with the DOJ and/or any other authority without representation. To discuss this further with a certified specialist in criminal law, contact Robert Hartmann today.

Chase Geiser