The term white collar crime was coined in 1939 by Edwin Sutherland, who described it as “crime committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of his occupation.”
Since then the term has come to mean a host of other things and is no longer confined to just those with “respectability” or a “high social status.” Bank fraud, mortgage fraud, insurance fraud, internet fraud, basically anything that involves “lying, cheating, and stealing” in a non-violent manner, is taken to be as white collar crime now.
These crimes are also getting more and more sophisticated, as the recent insider trading and investment bank frauds amply prove, and the federal government looks at them with all the disdain it deserves.
FBI says white collar crimes cost America $300 billion annually. So you can imagine that the consequences of being found out when involved in white collar crime must be huge. And yet, people don’t shy away from going down this path.
What Motivates People to Engage in Fraud?
It is assumed that most people who get involved in white collar crime do so knowing full well that they are engaging in unethical, if not unlawful, conduct.
What drives them?
Greed, of course. So much so that many people with no previous criminal record are tempted when faced with the possibility of making a big amount with a little bit of defrauding here and there.
Combine that with a foolish belief in one’s own invincibility, that they simply won’t get caught, and you’ve got the makings of a criminal. A school of thought suggests that white collar criminals are frequently narcissistic or have “antisocial personality disorders. They may be secretive, pathological liars and have an inflated sense of self-worth and an inability to accept responsibility for their actions.”
Regulatory oversights, sophisticated and fast evolving technology, loopholes in security systems of various businesses, and unwary individuals are also to be blamed for the prevalence of white collar crime worldwide.
Intent to Defraud is Important
Sometimes though, people do get caught up in fraud inadvertently. You genuinely didn’t know what your colleague was up to when you forwarded to them the emails that became an instrument of fraud. Or your aggressive business practices were just a result of you acting in the best interests of your company. As long as the intent to defraud somebody is absent, you have a case to defend (only if you get to a lawyer sooner than later).
The various securities frauds of the late 2000’s, on the other hand, were committed by individuals who knew what they were doing. Their actions resulted in massive losses to many, including loss of employment. Such people have little to no defense.
When You Are Indicted
Chances are you will go to jail. Ninety-nine percent of trials end in convictions for those accused of fraud. The federal government has no dearth of resources at its disposal to bring a rock solid case against you. It is best if you just accept that you were involved in fraudulent activities (if you were) instead of fibbing and trying to wiggle your way out of the charges against you, because you are not going to have much success doing it, as this guy here points out when reflecting on his own experience as a convicted fraudster.
Covering somebody else’s fraud makes you an accomplice to the crime and will not earn any favors from the FBI or the government. The bottom line is that your chances of fooling others if you have engaged in fraud are nil.
If You Are Wrongly Accused of White Collar Crime
It’s no small thing being accused of this type of crime. Simply put, it can ruin your life. Because a) if you are found guilty of it the penalties in place are severe, and b) your credibility and general repute will take a backseat if you are accused of fraud – even if you are later on found not guilty. It’s not just you but also your family who will have to live with the resultant ignominy and a loss of credibility, even if temporary.
The time a white collar criminal does in prison depends on the consequences of their crime. There’s a direct relationship between the loss caused by your fraud to the government/business/individual and the number of years you are to serve in prison. A typical big fraud can earn you up to 30 years in prison. This can go up to a life sentence without the possibility of parole when billions of dollars are involved.
If you maintain from the onset that you are not guilty of fraud, and are found to be so by a court, you have the option of bringing defamation charges against those who accused you of fraud in the first place.
But remember that it’s not as easy as earning an acquittal. Each time your name is Googled, the stories about you being accused of fraud will come up. There is no running away from them.
For this reason and many others, consult a white collar crime defense lawyer straightaway, i.e. before you give any statements to the police because you do not want to inadvertently make things difficult for yourself by blurting out something unhelpful, even if you think you are professing your innocence or are trying to help the authorities.
On the flip side, never accuse anybody of fraud unless you have solid reasons to do so or you may damage their credibility for life.