White collar crimes are a variety of non-violent crimes which are generally committed in commercial or business situations, and for financial gain. The majority of these crimes are prosecuted by the federal government, and as such, are considered to be especially serious in nature. The term itself, “white collar,” refers to the fact that the people who commit these crimes are generally high-powered professionals, as opposed to “blue-collar” laborers.

Some common examples of white collar crimes include, but may not be limited to:

  • Computer / Internet Fraud: This includes but may not be limited to:
    • Applying for credit cards online under false names;
    • Unauthorized use of a computer or information on that computer;
    • Manipulation of computer files; and/or
    • Computer sabotage or hacking.
  • Bankruptcy Fraud: This generally includes misleading creditors, or concealing assets from the bankruptcy court and/or your bankruptcy lawyer;
  • Bribery: In legal terms, this refers to offering money or anything of value which is used to influence the actions of the decision maker;
  • Credit Card Fraud: This is generally the unauthorized use of a credit card, and/or identity theft;
  • Counterfeiting: This white collar crime is mostly associated with money, but can also apply to drivers’ licenses, immigration papers, or any other important documents; Counterfeiting is the act of copying or imitating an item, without authorization but with the intention to pass it off as the genuine article;
  • Trade Secret Theft: A trade secret is anything that is used in a business that makes them different, and if that were to be exposed, would cause the business to lose substantial value. As such, trade secret theft refers to the theft or misappropriation of trade secret information;
  • Health Care Fraud: Health care fraud is generally associated with health insurance, and includes but is not limited to:
    • Kick backs;
    • Billing for services not rendered;
    • Billing for unnecessary equipment;
    • Billing by a lesser qualified person; and
    • Any kind of falsification of records in order to make an additional profit.
  • Insider Trading: Those with privileged information may take special advantage in order to reap profits, and/or avoid losses in the stock market to the detriment of the general investor; and/or
  • Antitrust Violations: These are attempts by one or two companies to dominate a particular market by getting rid of all competition.

What Is Occupational Crime?

Occupational crime refers to abuses of structural systems in the workplace, in order to accomplish various white-collar crimes. The majority of occupational crimes involve access by employees, managers, and/or other workers who are seeking personal gain. Occupational crime is considered to be similar to organized crime, and may overlap with organized crime elements. Additionally, there are some instances in which occupational crime is accomplished by the combined efforts of many people, as opposed to a singular person.

There is a wide variety in terms of the types of acts that may be considered occupational crime. Some examples of the most common types of occupational crime include:

Occupational crime can also involve more industry-specific violations, such as toxic dumping or other environmental violations. As such, some industries are more highly regulated than other industries.

What Are The Legal Penalties For Occupational Crime? How Do They Compare To The Legal Penalties For White Collar Crime?

Generally speaking, occupational crime punishments are determined according to the economic damages involved. An example of this would be how embezzlement crimes may either be categorized as misdemeanors or felonies, with the defining difference being the dollar amount stolen. However, it is important to note that limits between misdemeanor and felony charges may differ based on jurisdiction.

Additionally, punishments may be determined according to other factors, such as but not limited to:

  • The amount of property damage resulting from the crime;
  • The amount of harm caused to the environment, such as the amount of harm caused by illegal dumping;
  • Whether the violation is considered to be highly offensive to public policies and standards of acceptable conduct;
  • Whether the defendants have a history of similar crimes, or if this is their first offense; and
  • The number of people who were involved in the crime scheme.

To reiterate, white collar crimes are considerably serious offenses that are usually tried in Federal court. Generally speaking, penalties for violations of white collar crime laws can include but may not be limited to:

  • Considerably heavy criminal fines;
  • Jail or prison sentences, contingent upon the severity of the crime and whether it is considered to be a misdemeanor or a felony;
  • Forfeiture of assets, or, giving up monetary funds and/or property;
  • Restitution, or, paying back money that is rightfully owed to another person or business;
  • Supervised release or probation; and/or
  • Home arrest.

Are There Any Legal Defenses For Occupational Crime?

Any defenses available to those accused of committing occupational crime will vary according to the circumstances of each specific case. However, defenses generally mirror those associated with white collar crimes in general.

One of the most commonly asserted defenses would be a lack of the required intent to commit the crime. Another common defense is entrapment, in which a government agent persuades a person to commit a crime that they otherwise would never have committed. This is a legitimate defense as it is common for authorities to use undercover agents in order to obtain information on white collar crimes.

Some examples of other types of defenses that may be available include:

  • Duress, or that you were forced by someone else to commit the crime;
  • Intoxication;
  • Incapacity; and
  • Insanity.

It is important to note that defenses such as an insanity defense may be applicable, but they can also have negative effects. Additionally, it is unlikely that a defense will completely absolve you of the crime; rather, a defense could reduce your sentencing and influence the legal penalties that you may face.

If the white collar crime has violated Federal laws, a judge may impose penalties according to Federal Sentencing Guidelines. These guidelines frequently allow an attorney to negotiate with a judge for lighter sentencing, based on the specific type of white collar crime as well as the defendant’s previous criminal history.

Who Investigates Occupational And White Collar Crime?

Agents of different Federal agencies are most commonly 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.

Because of this, occupational and white collar crime investigations can involve several different agencies, which may be simultaneously attempting to discover unrelated claims.

Even if you are not suspected of committing an occupational or a white collar crime, an investigation might be ordered. An example of this would be how your business might be investigated because it was mentioned by a witness or an informant in an ongoing trial.

You may also be investigated if your business:

  • Received a subpoena in a grand jury trial in order to produce business records, or to supply a witness in trial;
  • Was presented with a valid search and seizure warrant in order to obtain documents;
  • Has been contacted by a government agent in an attempt to question an employee; and/or
  • Recently received a “subject letter” or “target letter,” which states that an investigation is necessary.

Do I Need An Attorney For Occupational Crime?

If you are being accused of committing an occupational crime, you should speak with an experienced and local criminal defense lawyer immediately. An attorney will be most familiar in terms of your jurisdiction’s laws regarding white collar crime, and will also be able to represent you in court, as needed while protecting your rights.