Were You Arrested on a White Collar Charge?
Have you been charged with the commission of a white collar crime? The potential penalties may surprise you. White collar crime is no longer treated with a slap on the wrist. Following the near collapse of the American banking system, and well-publicized fraud, embezzlement, insider trading and other schemes involving billions of dollars, the government has taken a keen interest business and in business executives. Financial and other business transactions are coming under increased scrutiny, and prosecutors are more than willing to pursue these cases aggressively.
You may have been charged with a white collar crime, or you may believe you are a target in an ongoing investigation. In either event, you want an experienced Phoenix white collar lawyer to guide you through the process. Effectively representing clients who are accused of committing business crimes requires expertise in financial and business matters. The government is often overly zealous when it comes to white collar prosecutions. Excess cash is automatically seen as money laundering. Found money is labeled “drug money” with little or no proof. In fact, government suspicions and investigations may target legitimate business decisions.
The attorneys at Feldman & Royle are experienced in defending clients charged with white collar crimes. They understand numbers and financial matters. They also understand that much of the information in these cases is digital, and can be traced through electronic transactions. They will use that experience to fight for your rights. Contact us for a free consultation.
What is White Collar Crime?
The term “white collar crime” is used to describe offenses that do not involve violence, the threat of violence or drugs (at least directly), and which are motivated by financial gain. For example, trafficking in illegal drugs is not considered a white collar crime, but a money laundering charge concerning the proceeds of drug sales falls within the definition. Similarly, if the allegation is that you stole someone’s money through a fraudulent internet scam, it is a white collar charge; street crime such as robbery or shoplifting, on the other hand, is not.
The FBI uses a shorthand definition for white collar crime – “lying, cheating and stealing.” The agency goes on to state that the term includes a large range of frauds committed by business and government professionals.
State and Federal White Collar Crimes
Whatever definition you choose, there are numerous offenses that are included within the category, some of which may overlap with others. Here are some of the more commonly charged white collar crimes:
- Bank and Mortgage Fraud. An example of this type of offense is making an intentional misstatement to a mortgage lender, which is relied upon by the lender, in connection with the mortgage lending process. This is known as residential mortgage fraud, a class 4 felony. Where, however, it is alleged that the activity is part of a pattern of residential mortgage fraud, it is a class 2 felony. It is also a crime under federal law (18 U.S.C.A. 1344) to defraud a bank or other financial institution, or to obtain money, credit or other property of the institution through misrepresentation. A federal conviction carries a potential sentence of up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million.
- Computer hacking and Internet Fraud. Under A.R.S. § 13-2316, computer tampering (hacking and similar activities), with intent to defraud or to misappropriate property, is a felony, the level of which depends, in part, upon the specific manner in which the tampering was accomplished. And under federal law, there are a host of criminal statutes that may apply in a given situation. They include, among others, 18 U.S.C. 506 (electronic theft); 18 U.S.C. § 1030 (computer fraud); 18 U.S.C. § 2701 (unlawful access to stored information); and 18 U.S.C. § 2511 (illegal interception of electronic communications).
- Identity Theft. Under Arizona law, the act of knowingly obtaining personal identifying information with the intent to use it for any unlawful purpose is a class 4 felony. Knowingly possessing, transferring or producing a false identification document, or transferring or using, without legal authority, a means of identification (personal identifying information such as a social security number, birth date, etc.), is also illegal under 18 U.S.C. 1028.
- Bribery of a public official under Arizona law consists of providing any benefit to a public servant (or one who holds a position with a political party) with the intent to influence that person’s acts as a public servant (or party officer). It also includes the acceptance of such benefit. This is a class 4 felony. In a private setting, the offense is known as commercial bribery, which includes offering or accepting a benefit without your employer’s consent, intending that it influence the employee’s conduct in the business. Commercial bribery is a felony, unless the amount or value of the bribe is under $100. Among the federal criminal laws applicable to corruption are the Federal Corrupt Practices Act, 2 U.S.C. § 241 (political contributions); the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 78dd-1 et seq. (bribery of officials of foreign governments); and 18 U.S.C. § 201 (bribery of public officials and witnesses).
- Credit Card Fraud. As with many of these categories, credit card fraud includes a number of different activities, and may be prosecuted under more than one criminal statute. Theft of a credit card, obtaining the card through fraud, and selling a card with intent to defraud are class 5 felonies under A.R.S. 13-2102; and receiving anything of value obtained through fraudulent use of a credit card (a felony if the value is $250 or more) is an offense under A.R.S. § 13-2103. Credit card fraud is also illegal the federal Credit and Debit Card Counterfeiting and Fraud Act of 1984 (18 U.S.C. § 1029).
- Money Laundering. The Money Laundering Control Act of 1986 (18 U.S.C. §§ 1956 and 1957) prohibits engaging in financial transactions with proceeds of various criminal activities. Other laws on the subject include portions of the Patriot Act (concealing transfers of $10,000 or more into or out of the U.S. with intent to evade reporting requirements); the Internal Revenue Code; and the Bank Secrecy Act.
- Insurance Fraud. Cases of insurance fraud run the gamut from filing a fraudulent insurance claim to making deliberate misstatements on an application for the issuance or renewal of an insurance policy. A violation is generally a class 6 felony.
These represent just a handful of the many state and federal statutes used in connection with prosecutions for white collar crimes. In addition to laws focusing on specific topics (internet fraud, mortgage fraud, etc.), prosecutors often rely on laws relating to wire fraud, mail fraud, as wells as the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961-1968. RICO allows a racketeering charge to be made against a person who is accused of violating any two of dozens of state and federal criminal laws.
Defending Federal White Collar Cases
If you have been charged in a white collar case, or if you are under investigation, the time to hire an experienced white collar attorney is now. Prosecutors are aggressive when it comes to white collar crimes, and they have enormous resources at their disposal. You need to level the playing field, and the way to do that is to hire an experienced lawyer who is not afraid to take on the government.
The attorneys at Feldman & Royle understand financial crimes, and they know how the government develops its cases. If you are facing a white collar charge in state or federal court, we can help. Contact us to speak to a Phoenix white collar lawyer.
Call Feldman & Royle at 602-899-8000 for a free, confidential consultation.