What Is White Collar Crime?

When we think of white collar crime, we tend to think of high-profile cases and large-scale fraud. For example, you have likely heard of the Enron scandal, the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme, the Martha Stewart insider trading case, and the fraud case against the founder of the disastrous Fyre Festival. These are all examples of white collar crimes. However, white collar crimes are not isolated to large-scale fraud.

Keep reading to learn more about white collar crimes and what to do if you are accused or charged of committing one.

The Characteristics of White Collar Crime

As a category, white collar crime covers a range of fraud crimes typically committed by business and government professionals. White collar crimes are crimes that are non-violent in nature but are not victimless. White collar crimes often involve deceit, deception, exploitation, and violations of trust. The scale of white collar crimes can range from local and regional to national and even international.

Examples of white collar crimes include:

  • Bank and financial institution fraud
  • Corporate fraud
  • Counterfeiting and forgery
  • Embezzlement
  • Health care fraud
  • Insider trading
  • Insurance fraud
  • Investment fraud
  • Market manipulation
  • Money laundering
  • Mortgage fraud
  • Securities and commodities fraud
  • Tax fraud
  • Workers' compensation fraud

A wide range of government entities investigate white collar crimes, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD), and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). White collar crimes may also be investigated at the state or local level.

How Are White Collar Crimes Charged

Depending on the nature and scope of the crime, a white collar crime can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. Regardless of whether a crime is classified as a misdemeanor or felony, it is important that charges are always treated seriously and with care. Even a misdemeanor conviction can result in jail time.

Common penalties associated with a white collar crime conviction include:

  • Fines
  • Prison sentences
  • House arrest
  • Victim restitution
  • Seizure of property

Many people erroneously believe that because white collar crimes are non-violent, the penalties associated with a conviction will be less severe than those for a violent crime. This is not true. It is not uncommon for someone convicted of a white collar crime to face years in prison and extensive restitution requirements.

For example, in 2018, William McFarland, the founder of the ill-fated Fyre Festival, was convicted (after pleading guilty) of wire fraud, bank fraud, and making false statements. He was sentenced to 6 years in prison and had to forfeit $26 million.

What to Do If You Are Charged with a White Collar Crime

If you have been accused of, charged with, believe that you are under investigation for a white collar crime, your first step should be to secure experienced legal representation. Fraud cases are prosecuted aggressively, and you need a skilled attorney defending you. During a fraud case, your lawyer is your most valuable resource. In addition to investigating your case and helping you understand the charges brought against you, they can work to uncover all of your legal options and help you determine the best strategy for your situation.

At Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich, P.A., we understand how terrifying it can be to face criminal charges. We also know how devastating a conviction is. Our lawyers are prepared to help you with your case. Reach out to our law firm today to discuss your case with an experienced attorney.


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