Below are some of the most commonly asked questions pertaining to “white collar crime” and civil enforcement. For specific questions concerning a case you may be party to, please speak with a licensed legal professional.
Q: What is white collar crime?
A: White collar crime is a non-violent crime that typically involves cheating or defrauding. Some common types of white collar crime include embezzlement, securities fraud, bank fraud, mortgage fraud, healthcare fraud, forgery, bribery, confidence scams, and official corruption. Moreover, the term has become a catch-all phrase that now includes civil enforcement by administrative agencies such as the SEC, CFTC, FTC, and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, among others.
Q: Who prosecutes white collar crime?
A: Actual charged crimes may be prosecuted by the federal government under federal statutes or by state prosecutors for the violation of state statutes. In the context of civil enforcement administrative agencies have jurisdiction to investigate and often bring civil enforcement actions.
Q: Who investigates white collar crime?
A: There are several law enforcement agencies that investigate allegations of white collar crime. In the federal system the FBI, postal inspectors, and the Criminal Investigation Division of the IRS are some of the better-known investigative offices. Moreover, specific agencies or departments, such as the SEC or the Inspector General of Health and Human Resources have authority to investigate possible crimes in the areas under the jurisdiction of those agencies or departments. In the state, police or investigators of specific agencies have authority to investigate white collar crime allegations.
Q: If I am charged in a white collar case, can I pay a fine to settle the charges?
A: Most white collar crimes are felonies just like non-white collar crimes. Depending on the severity of the criminal conduct, a court may impose a prison term. In the federal system white collar convictions of any significant crimes usually result in prison terms. The court may impose a fine in addition to a prison term. In a civil enforcement action, the result will not be a prison term. In this case the most common result is the imposition of some amount of a civil monetary penalty.
Q: What should I do if an investigator contacts me?
A: You should politely ask for the investigator’s contact information and immediately contact an attorney to obtain representation. You have an absolute right not to talk with the investigator if you so choose. An individual approached by an investigator is at a disadvantage. The investigator is prepared for the interview. The person approached is not. Moreover, the investigator has a body of knowledge about the case. That knowledge will lead to certain operating conclusions, which may not always be correct. Therefore, it is always best to contact an attorney to guide you through the process. If you and your attorney decide that cooperation with the investigator is in your best interest, then nothing is lost by the short delay. If cooperation is not in your best interest, contacting an attorney early may save you from incarceration.
Q: If I talk to an investigator and do not hear back from him for an extended period, does that mean that I am exonerated?
A: The answer is no. White collar investigations by nature generally take a long period of time. Unless your attorney obtains assurance from the prosecutor that you are not a target or subject of the investigation or that the investigation is closed, you should assume that the matter is still under active investigation.
Q: If I only had a small role in a white collar crime, does that mean the government will not bother with me?
A: Unfortunately, that is not the case. Under conspiracy law once someone is a member of the conspiracy, that person is responsible for all conduct undertaken by a member of the conspiracy in furtherance of it that was reasonably foreseeable. As a result, someone who had a more limited role in a conspiracy is as culpable for the entire conspiracy as someone who was at the center of it.