Although white collar crimes have been well-recognized for nearly two centuries, the collapse of Enron over a decade ago (as a result of deceptive and downright shoddy accounting practices) has made many Americans more aware of the seriousness of white collar crimes.
Further, as computers and other types of technology become more and more sophisticated, white collar criminals have changed the ways they operate, and, in some cases, it can be more difficult for police to gather solid evidence on white collar crimes.
In the early eighteenth century, Daniel Defoe observed that “Every degree of business has its invitation to do evil…”, “Necessity tempts the poor man,” and “Avarice tempts the rich.” All of these observations apply to white collar crimes—those who have little may be tempted to engage in a criminal act to help their finances out, even the rich can be tempted to engage in a criminal act due to greed, and businesses tend to be the primary focus of white collar crimes. White-collar crimes typically include the following offenses:
- Money laundering
- Tax fraud
- Intellectual property theft
- Money laundering
- Insider trading
- Ponzi schemes
- Misrepresentation of financial statements
- Illegal cartels
- Identity theft
- Internet fraud
White-Collar Crimes Can Be Difficult to Categorize
As history has shown us, white collar crimes have always been difficult to categorize, because those who typically commit a white-collar crime are not perceived as “typical” criminals. Further, when a white-collar crime is committed, the public tend to perceive such a crime as “victimless,” unlike crimes such as burglary, assault, murder, rape, etc. In 1939, criminologist Edwin Hardin Sutherland offered a different “spin” on white-collar crimes.
Up until this time, it was widely believed that such crimes were committed only by lower class offenders, however Sutherland refuted this idea. Sutherland believed the damages associated with white-collar crimes were actually much higher than those associated with many other criminal acts, and also noted that white-collar crimes were difficult to prosecute due to the fact that perpetrators use sophisticated means to conceal their crimes.
Six Elements Involved in White-Collar Crimes
There are generally six elements involved in economic malfeasance, which include:
- Motivation for financial gain
- Lack of violence in the crime
- Systemic character
- Breach of trust
- Diffuse victimization
- Upper and middle-class perpetrators
Most White-Collar Crimes Are Not High-Profile Cases
Most people think of high-profile crimes such as those committed by Bernie Madoff, or the Enron scandal, when they think of white-collar crime. In fact, white-collar crimes occur almost daily, either on a small or larger scale. Perhaps an employee writes a check they are not authorized to write to pay for something they need but cannot afford. On a much larger scale, an employee may systematically use business credit cards to make personal purchases. While many people who embezzle money truly believe they will pay back the money before the theft is discovered, this rarely happens. Some facts associated with white-collar crime include:
- Business executives are responsible for 16 times as many business losses than “regular” employees.
- Companies which have less than 100 employees are actually more likely to experience some form of white-collar crime than larger companies.
- A staggering 6 percent of company’s total annual revenues are lost to white collar crimes committed by employees.
- Managers in these companies are responsible for about 4 times as many losses as employees.
- Nearly three-quarters of white-collar crimes are committed by men; the “typical” white-collar criminal is a man who is college-educated and works in some type of real estate job. That being said, there are more women who commit white-collar crimes, than women who commit violent crimes.
Trust a Factor in White-Collar Crimes
Because there is a certain level of trust often afforded employees—particularly those who have worked for a company for a significant period of time—those who commit white-collar crimes may actually “get away with” the crime for years and years. The trust factor causes controls to become lax, with little oversight or accountability. Probation and restitution are generally the outcome when charges are pressed against a white collar criminal offender.
Embezzlement Actually Not the Primary White-Collar Crime Arrest
Although most people immediately think of embezzlement when they think of white-collar crimes, in fact, embezzlement accounts for only 6.5 arrests per 100,000 people. Overall, white-collar crimes account for about 4 percent of the crimes which are reported to the FBI. White collar criminals are about seven times more likely to target a governmental organization than a religious organization, and bribery is the least-reported type of white-collar crime.
In August, 2014, there were 512 white-collar prosecutions in the U.S.—an 8.6 percent drop from the prior month. While the number of white-collar crimes is believed to have steadily increased over the year, the number of white-collar prosecutions, actually dropped 12.6 percent from August 2009 to August 2014. For reasons not well-understood, the prosecution rates for white-collar crimes typically spike in April of each year, then dip down in the summer months.
Identity Theft on the Rise
Today, the most frequent white-collar charge is aggravated identity theft, accounting for nearly 20 percent of the total number of white-collar crimes which are filed. Following identity theft, bank fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud and conspiracy are the most popular white-collar criminal offenses investigated.
Did White-Collar Crimes Cause the Great Recession?
One survey found that a whopping 70 percent of those polled believe white-collar crime contributed to the 2008-2009 Great Recession. About one out of every four households will become victims of a white-collar crime, although at least 88 percent of white-collar crimes are not reported to law enforcement. White-collar crimes are expected to steadily increase over the next decade. The reasons for this include the fact that white-collar crimes are rarely reported, many victims of a white-collar crime feel they were responsible, and the return for a white-collar crime tends to be higher than that of other crimes. This risk-reward ratio can bump the temptation to commit a white-collar crime into an actual criminal offense.
Getting the Help You Need
If you have made a bad decision, and committed a white-collar crime, it is important that you speak to an experienced Mississippi criminal defense attorney as quickly as possible. Your Mississippi criminal defense attorney could be able to negotiate an agreement not to prosecute in return for something law enforcement wants, a deferred prosecution, or a fine and restitution.
Contact Our Jackson Criminal Defense Lawyers
If you are arrested and charged with a crime in Jackson, Hattiesburg, Meridian, or anywhere in the State of Mississippi, you need to fight for your rights and protect your freedom. The best way to do this is to hire an experienced Jackson criminal defense attorney immediately.
At Coxwell & Associates, PLLC, our attorneys believe in fighting aggressively for our clients and we can build a defense that is designed to expose the holes in the prosecution’s case against you. Contact Coxwell & Associates today at (601) 265-7766 0or click on the button below.
Disclaimer: This blog is intended as general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.