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Mar 31, 2022

What Are White Collar Crimes?

While some crimes involve violence, others do not. Some of the ones that don’t involve violence but instead involve fraud or deceit include white collar crimes.

If you commit a white collar crime, the consequences can be devastating, especially if your crime occurred on a larger scale. White collar crimes can sometimes lead to terrible tragedy for those involved, even though you didn’t physically harm anybody.

By learning more about white collar crimes and how to defend yourself against charges, you can hopefully gain a favorable outcome in your case.

The Definition of White Collar Crimes

White collar crimes are non-violent offenses that have to deal with conceit, violation of trust, and concealment. These are financial crimes, where the perpetrator attempts to gain money by defrauding others. Someone may commit these crimes to get ahead in their business or their personal life.

Perpetrators may believe they are committing victimless crimes. Even though the victim may not be evident, there is always a victim. Innocent parties may lose large amounts of money or businesses could suffer once they figure out someone is stealing from them. These innocent parties could develop emotional and mental problems and end up harming themselves, or others. White collar crime is very serious and is not taken lightly.

Nearly all white collar crimes are federal crimes, which means that the federal government, as opposed to the state government, will handle them.

White Collar Crimes in California

A number of different crimes count as white collar crimes in California. They include:

  • Passing bad checks
  • Misappropriation of public funds
  • Credit card fraud
  • Auto insurance fraud
  • Corporate fraud
  • Health insurance fraud
  • Mortgage fraud
  • False financial statements
  • Embezzlement
  • Extortion
  • Welfare fraud
  • Submitting fraudulent insurance claims
  • Counterfeiting credit cards
  • False impersonation
  • Vehicle registration fraud
  • Telemarketing fraud

These crimes may take place only in the state of California, or they could extend beyond state lines. Many times, they affect people in other states and perhaps even around the world. Multiple parties could participate in these complicated schemes as well.

Explaining White Collar Crimes

It’s helpful to know the definitions of different white collar crimes.

Fraud is an umbrella term and could include health insurance, auto, workers comp, business insurance, credit card, and welfare fraud. When you commit fraud, it means you’re lying in order to gain a financial incentive.

For example, you may lie and say that you suffered an accident at work in order to get workers comp benefits. When it comes to auto insurance, you may stage an accident to try and collect a settlement from your insurance company. Some people hire others to help them carry out their plans. For instance, you may hire someone to crash into your car and then split the settlement with them. If you have a business, you might pay someone to burn it down so you can claim the insurance money. These acts are highly illegal and could land you, and your accomplice, in hot water with the law.

Another common white collar crime is forgery, which involves signing the name of another person or a fictitious person. There must be an intent to defraud and not simply a mistake. Forgery could include signing a check made out to somebody else so that you can take the money.

Embezzlement occurs when someone takes another person’s property that was intended for a specific use and uses it for a different intention. For example, a hedge fund manager may tell his clients that he’s investing their money into a hedge fund when, in fact, he’s taking it for himself. Or, an employee might be using a company credit card for personal purchases.

Money laundering means that you made money through an illegal means like gambling or drug trafficking and then passed that money through a legal business (this is sometimes called a “front”). This makes it seem as if you made the money legally. For instance, perhaps someone made thousands of dollars selling illegal drugs and opened a laundromat to make it look like those thousands of dollars were coming in through the legitimate business.

Bribery is a white collar crime, too, and happens when you give something of value to a public official in order to gain something in return. For example, a small business owner can’t give a large campaign donation to a politician running for mayor so that they won’t have to pay city taxes. Politicians can’t give out gifts to people to try to garner votes from them, either. It’s also illegal to coerce jurors or witnesses in a case or get special treatment from legislative or judicial officers.

Counterfeiting is a very serious white collar crime. You cannot sell counterfeit merchandise like purses or watches or make fake money, drivers’ licenses, or IDs. For example, it’s highly illegal to create fake IDs for teenagers who want to buy alcohol. If you recreate a federal ID, then the penalties for counterfeiting could be even worse.

Penalties for White Collar Crimes

If you’ve been charged with a white collar crime, you could go to jail or prison, pay fines, and face other penalties if you’re convicted. Here are some specific examples of crimes and their consequences.

Embezzlement can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. It’s a misdemeanor if the amount stolen is less than $950, and it’s a felony if it’s greater than $950. If you’re charged with a misdemeanor, you could be sentenced to up to six months in county jail, and if you’re charged with a felony, you could be sentenced to up to three years behind bars.

The consequences for fraud range in California. For example, if you commit credit card fraud, you could go to jail for a year and have to pay a $1,000 fine or go to county jail for up to three years and pay a $10,000 fine depending on whether you’re charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. On the other hand, insurance fraud is a felony punishable by up to five years in state prison as well as a $50,000 fine.

If you’re caught counterfeiting on a federal level, you could be sent away for two to four years. If you commit forgery, you could be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. For the former, the punishment is up to a year in county jail, and for the latter, it’s imprisonment for 16 months, two years, or three years.

Bribery is usually prosecuted as a felony, and the punishment is up to four years in prison or jail. If you’re charged with money laundering, you could be facing misdemeanor or felony charges. If you’re convicted of misdemeanor money laundering, you may spend up to one year in jail and pay court fines, and if you’re convicted of felony money laundering, you could be sent to prison for up to three years. You may also have to pay a fine of $250,000 or twice the amount of money that you laundered, whichever comes out to more. If you have been convicted of money laundering before, the maximum fine is $500,000, or five times the laundered amount, whichever is higher.

Defending Yourself Against White Collar Crimes

If you have been charged with a white collar crime, there are defenses you could use to hopefully avoid getting convicted.

For example, perhaps there was no intent to defraud anybody and you simply made a mistake. You may have misreported how much money you made when filling out documents or accidentally filed the wrong type of insurance claim, for instance. If the prosecutor can’t prove intent, then your charges could potentially be dropped.

There might also not be any injury in your case. The victim may not have been harmed in any way, so you can’t be prosecuted.

Your case could be one of mistaken identity or mistaken fact. For example, maybe you weren’t involved in a crime at all, and it was a colleague or a family member who was doing something illegal.

The police may have done an illegal search and seizure when they discovered the alleged white collar crime. The police need to have a warrant to search and seize; they can’t just do whatever they want. If the evidence was obtained in this fashion, it could be rendered invalid.

The prosecutor may simply not have enough evidence to convict you. They need to show that you are guilty beyond all reasonable doubt, and if they can’t, then you could get off the hook for some or all of your charges.

Finding a White Collar Criminal Defense Attorney

It’s important to find a white collar criminal defense attorney who will assist you with your case. While the court will offer you a public defender, they are often overwhelmed with cases and won’t be able to give your case the attention it deserves. Plus, they won’t be available for you to reach out at any time and ask questions, which is what you need right now during this troubling time.

Instead of going with a public defender, hire your own private representation to try to secure the best outcome possible for your case. Your attorney will attempt to gather evidence to prove your side of the story as well as help you decide if you want to go for a plea bargain or take your case to trial. Most criminal cases end in plea bargains because the criminal justice system is backed up, and prosecutors would rather take the burden off the system. If you take a plea bargain, also known as a plea deal, you would plead guilty or no contest in exchange for a reduced sentence. This would speed up the case so it wouldn’t drag on for months or years on end and you could have a little more peace of mind knowing the outcome.

Your attorney will be able to answer any questions you have, let you know how they think the case will go, and advise you on what to do if you have to go to court. They will also provide you with support when you need it the most. Your family, friends, and colleagues may not be on speaking terms with you right now, which makes this much worse. Your attorney will be in your corner and supporting you every step of the way. Criminal cases can be confusing, so they can shed some light on what’s happening to you. Even though an attorney is an investment, it’s one that’s well worth it in order to protect your life and secure a brighter future ahead.

Hiring an Oakland Criminal Defense Attorney

To find an Oakland criminal defense attorney, seek out one who has several years of experience dealing with criminal cases and has excellent case results. Elliot Silver of Silver Law Firm could be the ideal fit for you if you are facing criminal charges for white collar crimes.

In one case, attorney Elliot Silver represented a client accused of embezzlement of over $100,000. If convicted, this could have resulted in a maximum eight years in prison. Prior to trial, an offer was proposed for just three years. However, Elliot believed his client should have pushed for a trial. On the eve of the trial, a new offer was made for nine months. Attorney Silver further negotiated to have the sentence finalized at only six months.

Elliot is prepared to assist you as well to try and secure a favorable outcome for your case. If you’ve been charged with a white collar crime or any other criminal charges and need representation, reach out to Oakland criminal defense attorney Elliot Silver today at (510) 995-0000 or by emailing him at He looks forward to hearing from you and helping you in your time of need.

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