The term, “white collar crime,” was first used in 1939 by sociologist Edwin Sutherland to describe those crimes committed by “respectable” people in the course of their regular employment. Today, the term is understood to mean nonviolent, financially motivated offenses perpetrated by professionals in the government and business sectors.
Various frauds and scams fall under this umbrella. Fraud refers to the art of deceiving someone for financial gain. These crimes include tax evasion, securities fraud, Ponzi schemes, embezzlement, and insurance fraud.
Invented in the 18th century as the Spanish Prisoner scam, almost everybody with Internet access eventually becomes a target for this fraud. Usually, the scammer purports to be a director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. He sends faxes or emails to likely people asking permission to deposit as much as 20 million dollars into the recipient’s bank account. He requests login details and clears the account of funds. Unsurprisingly, the account holder never sees the $20 mil.
By far the most notorious fraud ever was Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, for which he was ultimately sentenced to 150 years in prison for swindling his victims out of billions of dollars. A Ponzi scheme is a textbook case of robbing Peter to pay Paul. Rather than seeing a true return of profits earned, longer-term investors are paid money out of newly invested funds.
Not all fraudulent schemes are this blatant. Our LA White Collar crime lawyer practice often handles cases where the subject was unaware that they had even committed a crime. Say a company employee learns something about the organization that makes it seem like a sound investment; he innocently increases their shareholding. This is insider trading and attracts penalties of up to 20 years’ incarceration and/or $5 million fine.
Embezzlement is another common type of fraud. This can be anything from “borrowing” lunch money from a petty cash fund to siphoning millions of dollars of an employer’s money into a personal bank account. However noble the intention of paying the money back, it is still stealing and land you in seriously hot water.
If you are charged with a crime, you are entitled to specific rights, including privacy and a fair trial. Our team of experienced lawyers who serve the Los Angeles area are dedicated to protecting your rights. Call us at 818-995-8128 to schedule a free consultation.