In a world where crime often conjures images of heists, robberies, and dramatic police chases, there exists a quieter but equally destructive form of wrongdoing: white-collar crime. Keep reading to uncover the intricacies and repercussions of this criminal behavior.
What is White-Collar Crime?
White-collar crime refers to non-violent, financially motivated offenses typically committed by individuals, professionals, or organizations in positions of trust and authority. These crimes often involve deceit, fraud, or manipulation and are committed for financial gain.
White Collar Crime Happens Under the Shade of a Large Umbrella
Most people think of white-collar crimes as intricate schemes CEOs use to fill their offshore accounts with the hard-earned cash of working people. But people from all levels of employment and different types of businesses perpetrate these types of crimes.
Despite the efforts of law enforcement, from local departments to the FBI, this type of crime costs the United States billions of dollars every year. According to the US Department of Justice, annual losses from white-collar crimes in the US are estimated at $426 billion to $1.7 trillion.
There are a plethora of crimes crammed under the white-collar crime umbrella, but certain characteristics bind them together:
- White-collar crime feeds off its own complexity.
- They are almost universally non-violent.
- They are all predicated on deceit.
- The one committing the crime usually gets the opportunity because of his occupation.
The only limit to white-collar crimes is the imagination of those committing them. Most investigations and prosecutions occur on the federal level. This means high conviction rates for federal prosecutors, backed by the substantial resources of the United States Attorneys’ offices.
Common Examples of White-Collar Crime Cases
These crimes are far from victimless. A single white-collar crime can wreak havoc on a company or corporation, leaving a trail of destruction that affects countless families by erasing their life savings, causing financial losses for investors in the billions, and leading to mass layoffs. Modern fraud schemes, often relying on advanced technology, take pride in their complexity. Some of these schemes are so intricate that even participants may not fully realize they are involved in criminal activities.
Types of White-Collar Crimes
Unlike traditional crimes, white-collar crimes are characterized by their complex and sophisticated nature, often requiring forensic investigations to uncover the truth. The FBI has a white-collar crime unit that combines its analysis of intelligence with the investigations of crimes that fall under the white-collar umbrella. Here are a few examples, but they’re only the tip of the potential iceberg:
- Corporate Fraud
- Tax Evasion
- Money Laundering
- Securities Fraud
- Insurance Fraud
- Bribery and Corruption
- Identity Theft
- Credit Card Fraud
- Healthcare Fraud
- Environmental Crimes
- Consumer Fraud
- Insider Trading
These are just some examples of the many forms of white-collar crime, which often involve deceit, manipulation, and financial schemes for personal or corporate gain.
There have been white-collar crime cases that have held the public’s attention for some time. The longevity of these stories across news cycles is a testament to the complexity of these crimes. From Martha Stewart to Enron, white-collar crimes seem to be never-ending.
In the 1990s, the telecommunications company WorldCom acquired another telecom company, MCI. In 2000, WorldCom stocks began to decline, along with the fortune of CEO Bernie Ebbers. His plan to cover up the decline of his company included fraudulent accounting practices to deceive investors into believing the company was solid financially. Ebbers was eventually convicted of defrauding WorldCom of $11 billion.
Bernie Madoff made the term “Ponzi scheme” a household word in late 2008 when federal law enforcement arrested him for securities fraud. Madoff built a multibillion-dollar investment firm using falsified trading reports. He eventually pleaded guilty to 11 federal crimes: securities fraud, money laundering, theft from a benefit fund for employees and others. He is currently serving a 150-year sentence.
In 2017, a San Diego, California, insurance agent faced charges on multiple felony counts of grand theft and elder fraud. His arrest stems from charges of defrauding senior victims, taking over $1.1 million of their money while promising investment returns. He instead spent the money on himself, making purchases including jewelry and a new Maserati.
A well-known nugget of conventional wisdom tells us that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. This is a good bit of advice to keep in mind when people come calling with big plans and grand schemes.