Criminal activities that occur in a business setting are considered business crimes or commonly referred to as “white collar crimes.” White collar refers to the traditional white collar, button-down shirt worn by business professionals.
Because such crimes are usually committed by a professional either employed by a legitimate business or posing as one, the actions involved are rarely violent and instead are committed through a series of fraudulent or deceitful behaviors.
What is Fraud?
Fraud is unlawful deception meant to trick or deceive the targeted person or entity into giving something they would not otherwise give without the deception.
Fraudulent acts can involve:
- An impostor, or a person pretending to have credentials or access to something they do not have.
- Promise to do something even though the promisor has no intention of following through with the promise.
- Creation of fake documents showing a transaction or value and using them to obtain financial gain.
What are Some Examples of Common Business Crimes?
- Embezzlement: the act of withholding funds entrusted to you for the purpose of taking them from the rightful owner. Usually occurs when an employee takes money from an employer.
- Ponzi Scheme: initial investors are lured in and are paid out through new investors. False promises of returns or company growth sustain the investors interest even though no such returns exist; the money is sourced from new investors only.
- Pyramid Scheme: similar to a ponzi investment scheme, this one has initial investors recruit two or more investors and then requires each new victim to recruit two or more persons. The only funds being used to pay earlier investors comes from the new ones.
- Kickbacks: is a negotiated bribery where two parties agree to a sum amount that will act as a sort of commission or bribe to one of the parties in exchange for an illegal service or transaction.
- Bankruptcy Fraud: hiding business assets from creditors or the court to avoid liquiding them or paying the debt owed.
- Healthcare Fraud: billing for medical services not rendered or overbilling.
- Insider Trading: those with access to confidential information about a company’s performance or finances sell that information or use it to profit on the stock market.
- Antitrust Violations: the joint participation of two or more companies to control an industry market and fix prices.
Are Computer or Internet Based Crimes Considered Business Crimes?
Yes. In today’s business world, money transactions are frequently conducted online, over wires, or through paper instruments such as a check. As a result, many criminals set up fake websites or advertise on legitimate sites to attract potential victims promising jobs, business services, or an opportunity to invest which turns out to be fraudulent means to get money from the victim.
What are the Penalties If I am Convicted of a Business Crime?
This depends on what state the crime occurred or whether it is a federal case. Other factors include the amount of money taken from the victim and the number of criminal acts involved. If the scheme is used on multiple victims, each transaction that took place could be its own crime so there may be hundreds of counts of criminal charges for one scheme.
Common penalties include:
- Parole or probation;
- Restitution or repayment of the money taken;
If convicted of a theft related crime or embezzlement of an employer’s funds, then you may have difficulty obtaining a job in the future. You must be ready to disclose this, or it will be discovered on the background check.
If you were in a position that required a license like a financial investor, then you may lose your license and be prevented from acquiring one even after you serve a sentence. It will depend on the exact nature of your crime and the decision by the court presiding over your trial.
Are there Defenses to a Business Crime Charge?
Yes. These types of crimes usually require the state to prove the defendant had a specific intent, thus anything negating that intent can be a defense.
- Lack of Knowledge: You were acting under the direction of a supervisor and had no knowledge or reason to know that you were contributing to a criminal scheme.
- Duress: You or your family were threatened and you were forced to participate in the scheme.
- Entrapment: law enforcement agents unlawfully lured you into doing the scheme.
- The alleged activity was not illegal. It was a legitimate investing opportunity that simply did not perform. Just because an investment did not produce gains does not make it illegal.
Ultimately, if you can prove that you were not aware of the crime and your superiors hid the truth from you, then you have a chance of successfully defending yourself from a business crime charge.
Do I Need Help from a Lawyer for a Business Crime?
Yes. You should hire a criminal defense lawyer if you have been charged with a business crime. They can investigate the claim, advise you of your rights, and represent you in court.
If you have been a victim of a business crime, a civil lawyer can help you file a lawsuit against the fraudulent person or assist you in obtaining the evidence needed to show the fraudulent actions so that the case can be prosecuted by the state.