Understanding the different types of white-collar crimes and their penalties in Texas
If you were asked to list potential crimes, you might initially mention violent ones, such as assault or murder. You may even mention nonviolent ones like burglary. Domestic violence and drunk driving might also make your list. Each of these offenses carries with it the potential of incarceration in Texas, depending on the circumstances surrounding the crime.
However, these aren’t the only prosecutable offenses. White-collar crimes are some of the least considered offenses but are often prosecuted just as aggressively, if not more so, than the violent and nonviolent offenses described above.
Let’s look at some white-collar crimes and examples of offenses that may result in you facing charges in Texas.
What is a white-collar crime?
White-collar offenses are generally nonviolent, financially motivated crimes. Some common crimes that law enforcement or prosecutors designate as white-collar crimes include:
- Insider trading or antitrust violations
- Embezzlement or money laundering
- Environmental law violations
- Intellectual property theft, piracy or trade secret theft
- Identity theft
- Tax evasion
- Kickbacks and public corruption
White-collar crimes also include fraud associated with industries such as bankruptcy, health care, insurance, credit card, internet, telemarketing, mail and securities.
How serious are white-collar crimes in Texas?
According to crime statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in 2018, white-collar crimes are responsible for $500 billion in annual losses. The FBI contends that losses associated with white-collar crimes are 10 times the amount of losses Americans sustain in personal property crimes annually.
Which factors motivate individuals to commit white-collar crimes?
Some criminal justice analysts suggest that individuals commit white-collar offenses for 1 of 3 reasons, including:
- They disagree with existing laws.
- They believe their actions are harmless since they’re not inflicting any physical harm on anyone.
- They assume the targeted company is so large that it won’t notice the loss.
Many companies and governmental agencies have checks and balances in place to look for potential discrepancies so they can investigate them and turn them over to the appropriate authorities to pursue criminal investigations if necessary. This is why it’s imperative to be aware of some of the most common white-collar crimes and actions that may raise suspicions.
Common types of white-collar crimes
As previously mentioned, there are a variety of offenses that fall under the umbrella of white-collar crimes. Some of the most common ones include:
- Money laundering. A suspect may end up facing money laundering charges after administering or supervising the handling of funds obtained through criminal means, such as the sale of drugs, robbery or embezzlement. A defendant generally must have invested the ill-begotten funds into a lawful business or vice versa—invested lawfully-amassed proceeds into a criminal enterprise—to end up facing such white-collar charges.
- Tax evasion. Most individuals who end up facing such charges do so after failing to file a tax return or paying less than the amount they owe. While many of the individuals who end up facing tax evasion charges intentionally fail to file a return or pay the appropriate taxes by purposefully misrepresenting their income, others inadvertently do so. Government officials estimate that 75 percent of the U.S.’s overall annual budget deficit is attributed to unpaid taxes.
- Embezzlement. This crime generally involves a person in a position of trust taking money that doesn’t belong to them from someone such as an employer. Perhaps the more common example of how this crime unfolds is when a worker with access to a company’s financial records siphons off company funds and deposits them directly into their personal bank account.
- Securities fraud. This crime is also known as stock or investment fraud. Every financial advisor has a fiduciary responsibility to their clients. They must adequately advise their clients of the risks and benefits of making certain investment choices and steer clear of urging them to make unwise choices for the advisor’s own financial gain. Any instance in which a financial advisor receives a tip about an increase or decrease in the value of a stock and passes that information on to their clients in advance of a company’s board being notified of the same may face insider trading charges.
What to do if you’ve been accused of a white-collar crime
Penalties for white-collar crimes vary depending on the seriousness of the allegations but can include thousands of dollars in fines and prison time from 180 days up to 99 years.
Law enforcement and prosecutors tend to be unrelenting in their pursuit of individuals they suspect of committing white-collar crimes. This is why you must aggressively fight any such charges if you’re hoping to preserve your freedom.