Definitions, Examples, and Classifications of White-Collar Crimes

Published: 01st March 2010
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The term "white-collar crime" originates with Edwin Sutherland, who gave a speech on the topic to the American Sociological Society in 1939. White-collar crime is criminal activity of a non-violent nature. That said, they are extremely serious and should not be seen as any less serious a crime as violent crimes. White-collar crimes can result in the loss of thousands or even millions of dollars for individuals, groups of individuals, and businesses.

White-collar criminals are business professionals and public officials, who deceive their victims in order to gain financial profit at their victims' expense. White-collar criminals combine deceptive practices with legitimate business methods to avoid detection. Complicated transactions are utilized to lessen the danger of discovery. White-collar crime is a particularly difficult crime to prosecute as the only evidence available is often limited to documents and requires specialized expertise by investigators.

White-collar crime has many forms. The largest category belongs to fraud. Fraud can be perpetrated through the Internet, mail, telephone, credit cards, insurance, securities and commodities violations, and financial and healthcare systems. Other white-collar crimes include bribery, kickbacks, tax evasion, embezzlement, extortion, larceny, money laundering, perjury, obstruction of justice, and free market and environmental law violations. Governmental and law enforcement corruption is also considered a white-collar crime.

Prosecution for white-collar crimes can be pursued by government and victims. The government brings offenders to trial on criminal charges. In addition, both government and victims can launch civil lawsuits to gain restitution through forfeiture of assets.

Several federal government agencies, such as the FBI, IRS, Secret Service, and U.S. Customs, are authorized by the U.S. Constitution to enforce federal white-collar crime laws. White-collar laws have also been enacted by many states.

Victims of white-collar crimes can be individuals, groups of individuals, governments, employers, businesses, and society in general. White-collar crime is estimated to cost the United States approximately $300 billion each year. This sort of crime is escalating as technological advancements are made.

A criminal defense lawyer who is experienced with white collar crimes can help you defend your rights if you are charged with this type of activity. The most serious charges should be handled by felony lawyers with experience defending felony charges.

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