White Collar Crimes are serious offenses that are usually tried in Federal court. They refer to financial and other business-related crimes that do not necessarily involve the use of physical force. White collar crime is generally motivated by the desire to obtain financial gain or to increase business assets. Penalties for violations of white collar crime laws can include:
  • Heavy fines
  • Jail or prison sentences
  • Forfeiture of assets (giving up monetary funds or property)
  • Restitution (paying back money that is rightfully owed to another person or business)
  • Supervised release or probation
  • Home arrest

Which Agencies Conduct White Collar Crime Investigations?  

Agents of different Federal agencies are often involved in white collar crime investigations, including: The Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.), Internal Revenue Services (I.R.S.), Securities and Exchange Commission (S.E.C.), and the U.S. Treasury.
Thus, white collar crime investigations can sometimes be extensive and complex. An investigation may involve several different agencies which may be simultaneously seeking to discover unrelated claims. 
An investigation might be ordered even if you are not suspected of a white collar crime. For example, your business might be investigated because it was mentioned by a witness or informant in an ongoing trial. You could also be subject to investigation if your business:
  • Received a subpoena in a grand jury trial to produce business records or to supply a witness in trial
  • Was presented with a valid search and seizure warrant to obtain documents
  • Has been contacted by a government agent who wishes to question an employee
  • Recently received a “subject letter” or “target letter” stating that an investigation is necessary

What Should I Do If My Business is Under Investigation?

If your business has become the subject of a white collar crime investigation, it is very important that you respond both honestly and wisely. While you are expected to cooperate with investigators, it is important that you do not incriminate yourself. You should contact an attorney as soon as possible for advice in dealing with investigators. 
Remember that any information you disclose to an investigating agent can be used against you in a court of law. A lawyer can tell you which confidential business documents are protected from seizure under business laws. If the investigation develops into a lawsuit, you should ask your attorney whether any defenses are available against white collar crime charges.

Are There Any Defenses Available Under White Collar Crime Laws?

Like any other area of criminal law, there are several defenses available to persons who are accused of white collar crime. Perhaps the most common defense is a lack of the required intent to commit the crime. 
Another common defense is entrapment, wherein a government agent persuades a person to commit a crime that they otherwise would never have committed. It is common for authorities to use undercover agents to obtain information on white collar crimes. Other types of defenses that may be available are:
  • Duress (you were forced by someone else to commit the crime)
  • Intoxication
  • Incapacity
  • Insanity
You may wish to consider carefully when claiming a defense. Defenses such as an insanity defense may be applicable, but they can also have negative effects in other areas as well. 
If the white collar crime has violated Federal laws, a judge may impose penalties according to Federal Sentencing Guidelines. These guidelines can often allow an attorney to negotiate with a judge for lighter sentencing based on the type of white collar crime, as well as the defendant’s previous criminal history. Consult with your attorney to see what your options are under the sentencing guidelines.  

Do I Need a Lawyer for White Collar Crime Charges?

Once an investigation of your company has been initiated, you should contact a criminal lawyer immediately, even if the inquiries do not involve criminal charges. Investigations can uncover private information, and your attorney will be able to explain how such information can be used. If charges have been levied against you or your company, working with an attorney is essential if you wish to protect yourself and your assets.