The history and evolution of white-collar crime is an interesting one. While corruption is hardly a new concept, white-collar crime as we know it today did not come about until well into the 20th century. Edwin Hardin Sutherland coined the term “white-collar crime” in 1939 to highlight his believe that law enforcement focused solely on theft and other criminal offenses committed by the lower classes, while ignoring the often-shady practices of the elite, business class. In 1949, Sutherland detailed his beliefs in a book titled “White-collar Crime.” Sutherland’s idea was to shift the focus from the actual criminal offense to the perpetrators of the criminal offense.
Since Sutherland’s time, statistics have shown that white-collar crimes are no longer perpetrated only by the elite business class, rather people from all walks of life commit white collar crimes. Many of today’s sociologists believe another flaw in Sutherland’s ideas is a failure to distinguish illegal criminal behavior from deviant behavior—meaning under Sutherland’s definition, not all white-collar crime is an actual crime under current laws. Paul Tappan, a lawyer and sociologist, argues the definition of white-collar crime should be limited to only that which is currently illegal under our laws.
To combat the effects of white collar crime the U.S. Congress passed numerous laws and statutes in the 1970s and 1980s. The most well known of those was the RICO Act (Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organizations Act). This made it easier to prosecute organizations that were corrupt and seize the assets of those corrupt organizations. It also allowed people to sue for damages up to 3x the amount of damages incurred.
What is White Collar Crime?
According to the FBI website, white collar crime is now synonymous with numerous types of frauds that are committed by business and government professionals. This can include crime of deceit, concealment, or a violation of consumer trust. The main motivation behind these crimes is to increase profit or obtain money – and they are not victimless crimes. Some of the main types of white collar crime include:
- Business or Corporate Fraud
- Insider trading
- Health care fraud
- Identity theft
- Intellectual property theft
- Money laundering
- Securities and commodities fraud
- Ponzi schemes
- Pyramid schemes
- Cyber crime
The FBI works tirelessly with local law enforcement agencies and regulatory agencies to reduce the amount of societal harm perpetrated by white collar criminals. It is estimated that the white collar criminals cost the United States between $300 and $660 billion each year.
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Why is White Collar Crime Against the Law?
White collar crime might seem like it is a victimless crime – but it is not. When a company suffers fraud, it causes a ripple effect in the economy. The company raises prices and begins to cut employees salaries. It can even result in downsizing for the company and loss of jobs. The ripple effect continues even further when investors are suddenly unable to pay off loans. Faith in the stock market begins to fall and can wipe out retirement accounts for consumers across the country. The impact on society cannot be overlooked.
Worst White Collar Criminals
White collar criminals face severe fines and long prison sentences if they are convicted. Some of the longest sentences and worst white collar crimes included:
- Sholam Weiss – Weiss was an investor and consultant with the National Heritage Life Insurance company. In 2000, he was convicted of 77 counts of racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering. He was sentenced to 845 years in prison.
- Keith Pound – Pound was a mortgage specialist for the National Heritage Life Insurance Company. He was also convicted in 2000 for Racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering and was sentenced to 740 years for 74 counts.
- Norman Schmidt – Schmidt was a financial adviser for Capital Holdings. He was convicted in 2008 on 36 counts of money laundering, mail fraud, wire fraud, and securities fraud for running a Ponzi scheme. He was sentenced to 330 years in prison.
- Bernard Madoff – Madoff was a stockbroker and investment adviser for Madoff Securities International. He was sentenced to 150 years in prison after he was convicted on 11 counts of money laundering, wire fraud, mail fraud, securities fraud, and embezzlement after running a ponzi scheme.
Contact Our Boulder Criminal Defense Lawyers
If you or someone you love has been accused of committing a white collar crime, you can suddenly face serious and lifelong consequences. This is why it is imperative that you have an experienced Boulder criminal defense lawyer on your side from the very moment you have been arrested. Contact the Boulder criminal defense lawyers at Steven Louth Law Offices today for a free consultation and review of your case. Call us at (303) 422-2297 to start building a solid defense against these serious criminal charges.