What Are White-Collar Crimes?

Explaining White-Collar Crimes in Texas

White-collar crimes are illegal actions which typically involve the misuse or misappropriation of finances. They are distinguished from other types of crimes because they do not often involve violence or threats of violence. While many low-level crimes, such as robbery and theft, involve physically taking money from a person or a business, white-collar crimes may involve taking very large sums of money by fraud or deceit.

There are many different types of white-collar crime and they vary in their scope and their details. Check out the following list of white-collar crimes to learn more about the various types, as well as how these crimes are handled in Texas courts.


Defining White-Collar Crimes

The best way to understand white-collar crimes is to compare them to other types of crimes. White-collar crimes have two main characteristics:

  • They involve stolen funds or property
  • They usually do not involve violence or weapons

Compare these two crimes which both involve financial theft:

Jeff is a member of a gang. He enters a gas station, points a pistol at the cashier and demands all the money. He steals $350. Jeff has committed armed robbery.

In another example, George is an accountant for a large construction firm. Over two years, he secretly deposits company money into his personal bank account, totaling $35,000. George has committed embezzlement.

Embezzlement is a white-collar crime. While both actions are highly illegal, one is considered a financial crime.

White-Collar Crime Examples

All white-collar crimes share one major characteristic: they involve some type of fraud, deceit or manipulation to steal or misappropriate sums of money without using robbery or violence. In many cases, a white-collar criminal may steal very large sums of money without ever actually putting his or her hands onto any cash. Despite this fact, white-collar crimes often involve the theft of tens of thousands of dollars.

Some of the most common white-collar crimes include:

  • Embezzlement
  • Fraud
  • Identity theft

Taking a closer look at the definition of these offenses can shed some insight into white-collar crimes.


Embezzlement is a crime which involves the misappropriation of funds. It typically includes an organized effort by one or more employees of a company who secretly move money around so that they can steal it.

For example, Deborah is the assistant to a bank manager. She is responsible for placing cash deposits into the safe at the end of the day. Once a month, she alters the deposit slip and takes out $100 in cash for herself. She does this for one year. When she is finally caught, she is charged with embezzlement for her actions.


There are many types of fraud, including;

  • Wire fraud
  • Securities fraud
  • Mail fraud

Essentially, fraud is the act of using deceit or false information to illegally obtain goods, money or services.

For example, Alan calls several elderly people and pretends to be an IRS employee. He tells these people that they must send $500 to a certain address to avoid home foreclosure. Alan has committed fraud by posing as someone else in order to obtain money.

  • Identity Theft

Identity theft is a crime which involves using identification materials belonging to another person in order to obtain goods, money or services.

For example, Lori takes her mother’s driver’s license and one of her checks to the bank. She uses the ID to pose as her mother in order to cash the check. She has committed identity theft because she posed as someone else in order to obtain money that she did not own.

Legal Penalties

The penalties for white-collar crimes can vary based on the extent of the crime and the agency that prosecutes the case. Some white-collar crimes can be prosecuted by federal agencies, such as the FBI. In other cases, Texas law enforcement may oversee the investigation and prosecution.

Penalties for embezzlement are based on the amount of money which is misappropriated. For example, embezzling less than $50 is a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500. The penalties increase as the amount of embezzled funds increases. For example, embezzling more than $1500 but less than $20,000 is a state jail felony, punishable by up to two years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Fraud crimes are also punished in accordance with the amount of money that is stolen. Punishments can also be determined based on other crimes that are committed along with the fraud. For example, committing check fraud may lead to forgery charges. Forgery is a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of $4000.

Identity theft is often punished by the amount of identifying documents that are misused or stolen. For example, obtaining, possessing or transferring less than five identifying documents is a state jail felony, punishable by up to two years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Possessing or obtaining more than 10 but less than 50 identifying documents is a second degree felony, punishable by two to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

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