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A brief overview of white-collar crimes

Illegal activities that lead to charges of criminal offense come in a wide variety of forms. Some offenses are considered violent, but nonviolent offenses are those in which force or the threat of force is usually not used but victims lose something of value. These often involve fraud or illegal financial transactions.

Most types of fraud - whether mail fraud, embezzlement, bank fraud or forgery - fall into the category of white-collar crime. Louisianans might wonder where the term "white-collar crime" came from and who can be charged with this type of offense.

In 1939, the term "white-collar crime" was used in a speech at the American Sociological Society. It was first defined as "a criminal offense by a high-profile individual." As time passed, the term was used to define any illicit financial transaction.

Most white-collar criminal offenses now involve some form of theft or deception: trade secrets, economic secrets, counterfeiting, public corruption, kickbacks, bribery, insider trading, tax evasion, health-care fraud, credit card fraud and antitrust violations. The proceeds are often laundered through multiple transactions to hide or conceal their origins.

Agencies at all levels of government - local, state and federal - have the power to prosecute individuals and corporations accused of white-collar crimes. Depending on the offense, anyone convicted can be sentenced to prison, be forced to forfeit assets, be heavily fined or be detained in his or her home. Although white-collar crimes are considered nonviolent, conviction often carries harsher sentences than some violent offenses.

Anyone who currently faces an accusation of having committed a white-collar crime should work to build a strong defense to avoid conviction. A qualified legal professional who knows about state and federal laws can help a defendant learn more about the charges against him or her and how to present the strongest defense case to avoid conviction.

Source: Cornell.edu, "White-collar crime," Accessed on Aug. 24, 2014

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