What is White Collar Crime?
White collar crimes typically refer to a type of crime committed by business people, entrepreneurs, public officials, and professionals through deception, as opposed to street crimes which tend to involve force and violence (see the section on "Violent Crimes" Examples of white-collar crimes include embezzlement, bribery, extortion, larceny, fraud (e.g., health care, tax). bankruptcy, telemarketing, insurance, and mail, securities and commodities law violations, environmental law violations, price fixing, racketeering, loan sharking, black market operations, obstruction of justice and perjury, and computer fraud.
Depending on whether federal or state law has been violated, white collar crimes can be prosecuted at the federal or state level. Penalties vary, but in some cases may result in large fines, restitution, and jail/prison time.Back to White Collar FAQs
Larceny is the "taking and carrying away of tangible personal property of another by trespass with intent to permanently (or for an unreasonable time) deprive the person of his interest in the property".Back to White Collar FAQs
Embezzlement is defined as "the fraudulent conversion of property of another by a person in lawful possession of that property". Crimes of this nature generally have involved a relationship of trust and confidence, such as an agent, fiduciary, trustee, treasurer, or attorney.Back to White Collar FAQs
Forgery is defined as the "making or altering of a false writing with intent to defraud". This is related to the crime of uttering a forged instrument, defined to be "offering as genuine an instrument that may be the subject of forgery and is false with intent to defraud".Back to White Collar FAQs
Bribery is the "corrupt payment or receipt of anything of value in return for official action". In most states now this definition has been extended to include people who are not public officials (for example, athletes). Depending on state law, bribery can be either a misdemeanor or a felony, and in some states even the offering of a bribe can constitute bribery. In some states, too, it is considered a misdemeanor not to report a bribe (or bribe offer).Back to White Collar FAQs
Perjury is the "willful and corrupt taking of a false oath in regard to a material matter in a judicial proceeding". It is sometimes called "lying under oath"; that is, deliberately telling a lie in a courtroom proceeding after having taken an oath to tell the truth. It is important that the false statement be material to the case at hand-that it Could affect the outcome of the case. It is not considered perjury, for example, to lie about your age, unless your age is a key factor in proving the case.Back to White Collar FAQs
Tax Evasion vs. Tax Avoidance
The courts recognize the fact that no taxpayer is obliged to arrange his/her affairs so as to maximize the tax the government receives. Individuals and businesses are entitled to take all lawful steps to minimize their taxes.
A taxpayer may lawfully arrange his/her affairs to minimize taxes by such steps as deferring income from one year to the next. (For example, interest on property sold on 12/31/98 is taxable as part of 98 income. If the property is sold on 1/1/99, it would be taxable as part of 99 income. This is legal to do.) It is lawful to take all available tax deductions. It is also lawful to avoid taxes by making charitable contributions.
Tax evasion, on the other hand, is a crime. Tax evasion typically involves failing to report income, or improperly claiming deductions that are not authorized. Examples of tax evasion include such actions as when a contractor "forgets" to report the $10,000 cash he receives for building a pool, or when a business owner tries to deduct $100,000 of personal expenses from his business taxes, or when a person falsely claims she made charitable contributions, or significantly overestimates the value of property donated to charity. Similarly, if an estate is worth $5 million and the executor files a false tax return, improperly omitting property and claiming the estate is only worth $100,000, thus owing much less in taxes.Back to White Collar FAQs
Extortion vs. Blackmail
The terms "extortion" and "blackmail" are terms routinely used interchangeably, that is, obtaining property through the use of either oral or written threats. The threats can be of physical harm, or harm to one's reputation, livelihood, marriage, etc.
In some states extortion has only occurred when money or property has actually changed hands as a result of the threat. In other states, just the threat is enough to constitute extortion.Back to White Collar FAQs
Fraud is defined to be "an intentional perversion of truth" or a "false misrepresentation of a matter of fact" which induces another person to "part with some valuable thing belonging to him or to surrender a legal right".
In addition to the traditional criminal definition of fraud, there are many regulatory laws that have very specific rules that must be complied with. If you do not follow these rules to the letter, you could be charged with and convicted of fraud.
Federal Securities Laws cover a broad scope of possible types of fraud. The terms "extortion" and "blackmail" are terms routinely used interchangeably, that is, obtaining property through the use of either oral or written threats. The threats can be of physical harm, or harm to one's reputation, livelihood, marriage, etc.Back to White Collar FAQs
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