You turn on the news in the morning, and you hear that someone stole over $25 million. In your mind’s eye, you probably picture a Hollywood-style bank job, where a team of burglars pick a big target, disable the security system, and pack rolls of cash into huge duffel bags. Maybe they roar off into the traffic stream, and they’re lost to pursuit, getting away with more money than most people would ever be able to spend. Then you find out the crime was committed, not with explosives, guns, and ski masks, but with a pen. It turns out that a company CEO embezzled the money, taking it out of the workers’ pension fund and trying to disguise it as something else. He got caught when the company was up for review, and a whistleblower handed the necessary documents over to investigators.
That’s a prime example of white-collar crime, and the sheer scale it can reach.
The Definition of White-Collar Crimes
White collar crimes come from the white collared shirts typically worn by those in company management (floor and factory workers were known as blue-collar, because of their blue work shirts). These crimes, like fraud, embezzlement, insider trading, and others are committed with pens and keyboards, instead of guns and knives. According to the FBI, white-collar crimes are typically motivated by greed (or, at least, primarily by greed).
Even with that said, white-collar crimes is an umbrella term that covers a lot of different offenses. Not only that, but white-collar crime can be committed by government officials, as well as by individuals, and businesses in the private sector. That’s why, in addition to fraud, money laundering, scams (the traditional “I am a Nigerian Prince, and if I could have a moment of your time” emails fall under white-collar crimes), and other crimes, asset forfeiture is also on the list, alongside identity theft, and others.
There is No Such Thing as a Victimless Crime
White-collar crimes might seem like they do less harm than, say, dealing drugs or murder. After all, no one dies (generally) as a direct result of white-collar crimes, and the crime itself often takes place behind closed doors, or concealed by bureaucratic curtains. It’s one reason why so many of these crimes go undetected; those who commit them are insulated.
Once the crimes are discovered, though, drawing a line between cause and effect is actually quite simple. If someone has his identity stolen, then the charges racked up by the thief can bury him beneath a mountain of debt. Even if he gets his identity back, it can take years to undo all the damage the thief did, and even then the victim’s credit will have lifelong stains on it. If an executive embezzled a huge amount of money from a company, then that company may lay off part (or all) of its workforce. That means people lose jobs, and they have to scramble in order to fend for themselves, and their families. This might lead to an increase in bankruptcy, home repossessions, homelessness, unemployment claims, food stamps need, and other strains. Large-scale white-collar crimes are like throwing a rock in a pond; one person might commit the crime, but the ripples will reach significantly further, effecting society in lots of negative ways.
Big or Small, We’re Here to Help
White-collar crimes are serious business, and if you find yourself caught up in an investigation for them, you’re going to need help. You need a legal professional on your side to make sure your rights are protected, and to make sure you do what is in your best interests. For more information on white-collar crimes, and how we can help you in a legal sense, simply contact us today!