What is Federal White Collar Crime?: The Basics
Some of the most commonly prosecuted federal white collar crimes are bribery, extortion, fraud, theft, kickbacks and money laundering. These crimes are addressed separately in criminal statutes, but what makes them part of a white collar crime case is that they involve at least one individual who uses his corporate position to illegally profit off of fraudulent activity.
Other than the government conducting its own investigation based on fraudulent activity that it has been monitoring, corporate whistleblowers are one of the top sources for the FBI to learn about potential federal white collar crimes. This is important to understand because it means that there could be highly motivated and interested employees within your corporate organization who are actively supplying information to the government about any alleged fraud within your corporation. Before you speak with the government, it is essential that you retain the services of a federal white collar crime attorney.
One of the ways that corporate officers are implicated in federal white collar crime investigations is through the Responsible Corporate Officer principle. This means that if a corporate officer is high ranking enough within the organization, he should have sufficient knowledge about the activities going on within the corporation. The government will use this doctrine to charge corporate officers with a white collar crime for an activity in which they may not have directly participated or ordered the execution of. It is a powerful tool for the government to use to coerce corporate officers to cooperate with their investigation because it often alarms corporate officers enough that they are worried about facing potential federal prison time for the activities going on within their organization. While it can be unnerving to speak with law enforcement about the activities of your firm, this can be a smart strategy, but only after speaking with your white collar attorney, and having him present.
What are the Potential Punishments and Penalties?
The federal sentencing guidelines, which were first enacted in 1984, provide for criminal penalties for those convicted in a federal district court. Even though many of the crimes involved in a federal white collar crime case are also available for prosecution in the state court system, the fact that a white collar crime case gets to the federal level means that the potential penalties could be much worse for a convicted defendant. Keep in mind that a prosecutor will be much more inclined to use significant resources in prosecuting a federal white collar crime case if there is significant amounts of money involved or if it involves a widely known company. This is because the federal government wants to be able to show that it took a strong stance against financial crimes and looked out for the public’s best interest.
One of the ways to reduce the potential fallout for someone being investigated for white collar crimes is to agree to assist the government in its prosecution of other employees of the same company or those also believed to be involved in the fraudulent scheme. This decision should not be made without the advice of a white collar crime attorney because it can result in you divulging damaging information to the government for the purposes of defending your own case.