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What is White-Collar Crime?

Posted in Criminal Defense on April 24, 2022

Nonviolent offenses committed solely for financial gain are cataloged under an encompassing umbrella known as “white-collar crime.” If you watched the 2013 film The Wolf of Wall Street, based on the life of convicted white-collar criminal Jordan Belfort, then you have had a fairly accurate primer on white-collar crime. Belfort was convicted in 1999 of fraud due to his part in running a penny-stock scam and manipulating the stock market. 

The term “white-collar criminal” originally came into fashion because of the prevalence of white-collar offenses largely among a particular sector of society—those who work in office jobs, management positions, and the corporate world (as opposed to blue-collar workers who work in the trades, factories, and other skilled labor jobs). Think Bernie Madoff, the one-time NASDAQ chairman who gained infamy for running the largest Ponzi scheme in history—with assets to the tune of nearly $65 billion. 

Most white-collar crimes involve a violation of trust, concealment, or deceit, with the perpetrator’s intentions being to obtain money, goods, property, or services and to avoid losing the same or to secure some sort of advantage, either in the defendant’s personal life or their business. If you have been accused of a white-collar offense, you need to reach out to a seasoned Riverside criminal defense attorney right away. 

Types of White-Collar Crime

White-collar crime is used as a blanket description for a host of potential offenses. Some of the most common of these charges include:

  • Fraud. A broad term, fraud generally describes any type of scheme devised for the purpose of defrauding a person or persons of cash. 
  • Insider trading. When someone who has knowledge about a company that might affect the company’s reputation or worth shares that information or acts on it—and that information is not known to the general investing public—then they may be guilty of insider trading. 
  • Ponzi schemes. This type of scheme is an investment scam that works like a funnel. New investors pay returns for existing investors. Eventually, there is not enough money to pay everyone, and the funnel collapses, leaving those who “invested” in the scheme with little or nothing. 
  • Identity theft. Assuming the identity of someone else in order to obtain financial gain is a common white-collar crime. 
  • Embezzlement. The theft of money from a company by a person of trust is known as embezzlement. 
  • Money laundering. Criminals who “wash” cash by funneling the money they make from illegal activities through what appears to be legitimate business holdings are committing the offense of money laundering. 
  • Counterfeiting. Making currency and passing it off as real money is illegal. 
  • Hacking. Many cybercrimes can fall under the white-collar umbrella, but hacking is one of the most common. Hacking involves the unauthorized access of computers or data files. 

Individual vs. Corporate Criminals

Individuals often commit white-collar offenses on their own or as a group. This is often the case with fraud schemes, counterfeiting, hacking, and identity theft, among other white-collar crimes. White-collar crime can also occur at the corporate level, such as when an investment firm knows about and allows its employees to share insider information or launder money. 

If you have been accused of a white-collar offense, waste no time in reaching out to our Riverside and San Bernardino criminal defense attorney with the Graham Donath Law Offices, APC, for an evaluation of your case.