It does not matter whether you are a business owner, executive, healthcare provider, or another professional, if you are under investigation or already charged with a so-called white-collar crime, the consequences can be catastrophic. Not only is your reputation at stake, but you could be facing exorbitant fines and significant imprisonment.
Common White-Collar Crimes in Texas
White-collar crimes involve the use of deception to obtain unlawful financial gain. Sometimes referred to as corporate or financial crimes, white-collar crimes are non-violent and financially motivated.
Common white-collar crimes include:
- Antitrust crimes (when a company, for example, participates in bid rigging, monopolistic commercial activities, price fixing, etc.)
- Bank and check fraud
- Computer and intellectual property crimes
- Embezzlement (when someone has obtained funds from a federally-insured financial institution through improper means)
- Environmental violations and compliance
- Export/Import violations
- Healthcare fraud and Medicare fraud
- Insider trading (when someone with inside knowledge of a company uses that knowledge to buy and sell stocks)
- Mail and wire fraud
- Mortgage fraud
- Money laundering (when someone disguises or conceals unlawful sources of money)
- Securities fraud
- Tax evasion
These crimes are referred to as “white-collar” because it is most often professionals who have access to large amounts of money in the course of their work and who are charged with these offenses. They are serious offenses, mostly prosecuted at a federal level.
White-Collar Crime Penalties
Possible penalties for a conviction of a white-collar crime include:
Some people view white-collar crimes as “victimless” and, therefore, less serious than violent or drug crimes. However white-collar crimes often involve a breach of trust by someone in a position of responsibility. For this reason, the penalties for white-collar crimes are harsh, and a conviction can often result in a lengthy prison sentence. For example, a conviction of mail and wire fraud can result in up to $250,000 per individual and 20 years of imprisonment.
Aside from fines, other financial penalties can be imposed, like:
- Paying the costs of the prosecution
- Paying restitution to the victims
- Forfeiting certain assets
Beyond the penalties imposed by a court, a conviction for a white-collar crime can have long-term social consequences, particularly in terms of finding work. An offender may lose their professional license or be barred from working by the relevant professional association.
Common Defenses to White-Collar Crimes in Texas
The defenses available to a defendant will depend on the specific circumstances of their case. However, common defenses often used in white-collar crime cases exist.
Lack of Intent
To prove most white-collar crimes, the prosecution needs to establish that the defendant intended to commit the crime. If the defendant had no intention of engaging in unlawful activity, they may be able to defend against the charge.
When investigating white-collar crimes, law enforcement may set up an operation to try and catch suspected individuals. Although this investigative technique is allowed, law enforcement cannot coerce an individual to commit a crime. If they do, and the defendant would otherwise not have committed the act, the defendant may be able to argue the defense of entrapment.
If a defendant was forced to commit a white-collar crime because of threats, they may be able to defend themselves based on duress. Also referred to as coercion, duress requires the defendant to show they committed the act only because of an immediate and inescapable threat of bodily harm or death.
Where a defendant lacks the mental capacity to understand the criminal nature of their actions, they may be able to argue incapacity. However, this can be difficult to prove in white-collar cases involving sophisticated conduct by a defendant over a long period.
Regardless of whether or not any of these affirmative defenses apply in your unique case, our white-collar criminal defense lawyer will investigate your case and develop a defense strategy. Part of this strategy may include violations of your 4th Amendment rights. You or your property may have been unlawfully searched and seized. You may have been unlawfully questioned. A warrant may have been unlawfully obtained and/or executed. If a violation exists, evidence could be suppressed.
Remember, too, that the prosecutor has the burden to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Part of our job is to poke enough holes in the prosecutor's case to create doubt.