The term “white collar crime” is a very broad and covers a wide range of California state and federal statutes. This type of crime is not violent, but rather the perpetrator acts dishonestly in a commercial setting for a financial gain.
Put simply, white collar offenses are illegal acts involving deceit, rather than the use of any physical force, violence, or the threats of force.
Most defendants who have been arrested and charged with a white collar crime are accused of some type of theft or fraud that involves a victim losing money or property using technical and complex acts.
Many defendants are business professionals or management who are highly educated and affluent, which separates them from others. As noted, these types of fraud crimes can be handled by the state or the federal government, which has become more common.
The federal government has extensive powers and almost limitless resources to investigate and prosecute white collar crimes.
For more information, our Los Angeles criminal lawyers are reviewing the various laws below.
What Are the Common Types of White Collar Offenses?
Fraud occurs in many different forms, but is generally described as intentional deception to secure unfair or unlawful gain.
Whether a white collar crime will be prosecuted by state or federal authorities will depend on a variety of factors discussed below.
Typically, what happens is there is a lot of money lost by a certain entity or individual that causes the law enforcement authorities to get involved.
This could involve state or federal authorities. The most common white collar crimes include the following:
- Penal Code 503 PC – embezzlement,
- Penal Code 518 PC – extortion,
- Penal Code 67 PC – bribery,
- Penal Code 470 PC – forgery,
- Penal Code 118 PC – perjury,
- Penal Code 186.10 PC – money laundering,
- Penal Code 550 PC – health care fraud,
- Penal Code 484e PC – credit card fraud,
- Penal Code 530.5 PC – identity theft,
- Penal Code 532 PC – theft by false pretense,
- 18 U.S.C. § 1033 – insurance fraud,
- 18 U.S.C. § 1344 – bank fraud,
- 18 U.S.C. § 1348 – securities fraud,
- 18 U.S.C. § 1343 – wire fraud,
- 18 U.S.C. § 1341 – mail fraud,
- 18 U.S.C. § 1347 – health care fraud,
- 18 U.S.C. § 472 – counterfeiting,
- 18 U.S.C. § 873 – blackmail and extortion,
- 18 U.S.C. § 157 – bankruptcy fraud,
Who Investigates White Collar Crimes?
White collar offenses are often highly sophisticated and complex. Thus, prosecuting these crimes requires thorough and lengthy investigations.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), United States Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Internal Revenue Service all investigate federal white collar crimes.
The California state and local law enforcement agencies also conduct investigations into these fraud offenses that impact local citizens.
It's not uncommon for a suspect to be under a criminal investigation for week or months by one of these agencies before they become aware they are a target, which makes these lengthy investigations unique.
What are the Common Penalties for a Conviction?
The penalties for white collar conviction will always vary from one case to the next. Courts consider the details of the case and the harm caused when sentencing someone convicted of a white collar offense.
In California, most are “wobblers,” meaning the prosecutor can file the case as either a misdemeanor or felony. The penalties include the following:
- county jail or state prison jail sentence,
- fines and asset forfeiture,
- summary or formal probation,
- house arrest or electronic monitoring,
- victim restitution.
There are also aggravated penalties if a suspect is charged with two or more felonies of fraud or embezzlement of more than $100,000, for example.
Penalties in the federal court system are always more severe than a state court.
What Determines Whether Someone is Prosecuted at the State or Federal Level?
White collar crimes are very prevalent right now and very serious, and obviously, if you're charged at the federal level, it's much more serious than the state. You're looking at more time in federal custody in a higher percentage of the time.
So, a lot of people, when they get arrested for a white collar offense, or they're being investigated for it, they want to know whether they're going to be prosecuted federally or at the state level.
Some people think that all white collar crimes are federal, which of course, is not true. The state government prosecutes a lot of white collar crimes.
In fact, most of the white collar crimes that are prosecuted at the state level. The feds are typically only going to deal with:
- high-impact to society,
- highly-complex white collar schemes.
The bigger the dollar, the more likely the feds will get involved. When it is complex or involves multi-jurisdictions, for example, the feds are better equipped to deal with these type of cases.
They can go from state to state. They're all connected federally and they can work together in various states; whereas, state officials, police department, really just don't have that type of manpower and don't have those type of resources and they're going to pass that type of white collar offense off to the feds.
sophistication and huge pyramid schemes
Also, where I see the feds getting involved is when you have a situation where there's sophistication going on and a big impact to society.
Some huge pyramid scheme involving multiple banks, which of course, the feds love to control and is going to likely put the feds on the trail versus the state government.
State Government vs. Federal Authorities
The state government usually is going to get involved when it involves a single defendant, there's not large dollar amounts.
But, there are those cases that kind of fall in the middle, where there are dollar amounts but the person is not a big player, so to speak, and those cases can go either way.
Sometimes it depends on who investigates it, whether it's the feds or the state government.
But, when you talk about white collar crime, this is the type of offense that really gets prosecutors angry, get the best prosecutors on the case, so that's why you've got to have the best criminal defense attorney defending you, because you're going to have to have somebody that can at least match the prosecutors.
Hopefully, most of the time, your criminal defense attorney is better than the prosecutors — knows how to investigate the case, knows how to attack witness's credibility, if that's necessary and knows how to win a jury trial in the right circumstances.
Defending White Collar Offenses
Of course, when you're talking about white collar crime, whether it be prosecuted at the state or federal level, you need somebody who knows how to negotiate.
This is because a lot of these cases the feds or the state government has the evidence to prove the case and we need to mitigate the circumstances. We need to:
- put you in the best position;
- we need to keep you out of jail,
- try to protect your record, and
- your reputation.
All of this takes experience. It takes know-how and it takes a good strategy and that's why what I do is put my 30 years of courtroom experience to work for you.
We sit down. We design our plan. We decide if we're going to fight the case or whether we're going to negotiate it and then we come up with a plan on exactly how we can put you in the best possible position.
We're going to do that in the privacy of my office. We're going to lay out everything and then we're going to put together what it's going to take to get you out of the criminal justice system as fast as possible.
Some of the most legal defenses against state or federal white collar offenses include:
- lack of criminal intent,
- insufficient evidence,
- statements were not fraudulent,
- entrapment by law enforcement,
- illegal search and seizure,
- false accusation.
We might be able to negotiate with the prosecutor for getting the charges reduced or even dismissed. Further, we might be able to avoid the formal filing of criminal charges through prefiling intervention.
If you or a loved one is charged with a white collar offense at either the state or federal level and are trying to figure out whether it's going to go state or federal, you've come to the right place.
I defend people in both jurisdictions. Pick up the phone. Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding. We need to first closely examine all the details of the case to determine an appropriate strategy.
Hedding law firm is based in Los Angeles County, but serves clients in California and throughout the United States. Contact our office for a free case evaluation at (213) 542-0979.