White-collar crime is a term used for several different non-violent crimes that are more of a technical nature and cause no physical harm. However, these types of crime are met with equal severity in terms of penalties — with fines and jail time sentences comparable to those given to violent offenders. But while Pennsylvania has its own set of laws addressing a wide variety of white-collar crimes, some crimes end up being charged as federal offenses. Attorney R. Davis Younts, Esq., explains how white-collar crimes are prosecuted in Pennsylvania and what to expect if your charges are elevated to a federal offense.
What Is Considered a White-Collar Crime in Pennsylvania?
White-collar crimes are non-violent offenses (without any weapons or violence) that are usually economic in nature. Those who engage in white-collar crime find unlawful ways to gain financial advantage through deception or concealment of facts. In simple terms, this type of crime involves money and fraud.
White-collar crimes always involve some form of manipulation of information and can be committed by an individual or a corporation. Penalties for white-collar crimes vary in severity depending on the crime committed and the amount of money that was illegally taken. Sentences can vary from a misdemeanor to a second-degree felony, along with fines and jail time.
What Are the Most Common White Collar Crimes?
The two most common white-collar crimes are fraud and embezzlement. Fraud is a term that covers many offenses such as tax evasion, credit card fraud, bankruptcy fraud, and others. Embezzlement refers to the crime of misappropriating funds trusted to you, such as taking money from your employer or a third party and funneling it into your bank account.
Other common crimes include insurance fraud (providing false or misleading information in an attempt to cash an insurance policy); money laundry (attempting to give a legal purpose to money obtained illegally), forgery (falsely signing documents or passing bad checks); identity theft (using someone else’s identity for unlawful purposes) and investment-related scams referred to as Ponzi schemes. All these offenses have the same goal – to gain financial advantage through deception or hiding information.
When Does a White Collar Crime Become a Federal Offense?
While the state of Pennsylvania has harsh penalties for white-collar crimes committed within state borders, certain crimes may be considered to be federal offenses under a few specific circumstances.
You may be facing federal charges if the white-collar crime you are being accused of:
- Crossed state lines (either physically or electronically);
- Took place on federal property within the state of PA;
- Involved a federal agency such as the United States Postal Service (USPS).
If you are involved in a federal white-collar crime, you can expect to be investigated by a federal agency such as the United States Treasury, the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, the United States Postal Service, or the Securities and Exchange Commission.
What Are Possible Defense Strategies for a Federal White Collar Crime?
If you have been charged with a white-collar crime, it does not automatically mean you are getting convicted. A charge and a conviction are not the same thing, and if you haven’t yet been convicted, it means you have a fighting chance. When you work with a criminal defense attorney who has handled countless federal white-collar crime cases like Attorney R. Davis Younts, Esq., they may employ several different defense strategies, depending on the specifics of your case.
A possible strategy is to require prosecutors to prove that the defendant acted with criminal intent. If somebody did not intend to commit a white-collar crime and ended up doing so by making an honest mistake (such as making a mistake on their tax return and being accused of fraud), proving that this person lacked criminal intent may be a valid defense.
Another possibility is to prove that the defendant is a law-abiding citizen who was pressured or induced to commit the crime. This defense strategy is referred to as entrapment. For example, if law enforcement conducts a sting operation to catch an individual or group of people in the act of committing a white-collar crime, an attorney may argue that the officers induced the crime through their behavior. This is not an easy strategy to employ, as it requires the attorney to prove that the defendant only committed the crime because he or she was led to do so by law enforcement.
Additionally, in some cases where the defendant presents any type of physical or mental incapacity or was intoxicated, the criminal defense attorney may argue that the defendant was not aware of any wrongdoing and not in full control of their own actions due to their disability or from being under the influence of drugs and alcohol. This strategy, especially concerning intoxication, may work to reduce the severity of charges and penalties.
Your attorney may choose to employ a combination of these strategies in an effort to get your charges reduced or dismissed altogether, but every case is different and results may vary. If you are facing white-collar crime charges in Pennsylvania or at a federal level, contact the law office of R. Davis Younts, Esq. for a free consultation and case analysis to learn your options.