White-collar crime typically refers to nonviolent crimes committed by business professionals or government employees for financial gain. Common types include embezzlement, fraud, bribery, insider trading, tax evasion, and money laundering. The stereotype surrounding white-collar criminals is that they get off easier than other criminals, with lighter sentences at minimum security jails – if they get jail time at all. This picture is not actually accurate.
If you are facing charges for a white-collar crime, do not assume that you will get off lightly. Especially in the years following headline-making cases like Bernie Madoff, the subprime mortgage crisis, or the Enron scandal, courts take white-collar crime extremely seriously. The results of a conviction for white-collar crime can include lengthy prison terms, hefty fines, and other life-altering consequences such as a tarnished business reputation, revocation of professional licenses, and the loss of certain civil rights such as the ability to vote.
Many people also think that white-collar crimes have to involve large amounts of money and a malicious intent to defraud, but this too is untrue. A well-intentioned small business owner could easily be caught up in a money laundering scheme, for example. If you are facing charges for a white-collar crime, it is imperative that you contact an experienced attorney immediately to determine the best course of action to protect your livelihood, freedom, and reputation.
White-Collar Crime Lawyer in Ventura, CA
With your freedom, livelihood, and reputation on the line facing a conviction for a white-collar crime, you want an aggressive defense attorney like Jay Leiderman on your side. Not only does Jay Leiderman have years of experience handling many different white-collar crimes, he is one of the less than 1% of California attorneys to have earned specialization in Criminal Law through the California Bar Association by passing a difficult judge-reviewed screening process.
After years of representing California defendants in high-profile cases, Jay Leiderman Law has the knowledge and skill to build an effective defense tailored to your unique situation. Timing can be essential, and often the earlier in the criminal process that you retain an attorney the better the ultimate outcome. We represent clients in all ten Ventura County cities, including Camarillo, Fillmore, Moorpark, Ojai, Oxnard, Port Hueneme, Santa Paula, Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks, and Ventura itself. Don’t hesitate. Call Jay Leiderman Law at (805) 654-0200 today for a free consultation.
Overview of White-Collar Crime Law in California
- Examples of White-Collar Crimes
- Money Laundering
- Other Types of White-Collar Crime
- Additional Resources
Examples of White-Collar Crimes
The term white-collar crime encompasses many different underlying crimes, and the penalties for each vary. White-collar crimes can be felonies or misdemeanors depending on the type of crime, the amount of money at issue, and the targeted victim or victims.
A proper defense will depend on what you are charged with and the circumstances of your particular case, so it is important to consult a competent attorney to assist you. Continue reading below for a few examples of different kinds of white-collar crimes.
Fraud typically involves deception or dishonesty for the purpose of achieving financial or some other type of personal gain. Fraud can be charged under several different California laws. For example, securities fraud comes mostly from the California Corporate Securities Law, while car insurance fraud is covered under Chapter 10 of the Penal Code covering Crimes Against Insured Property and Insurers. Forgery, another example of fraud, is outlined in Penal Code 470 PC.
Which laws and penalties apply will depend on the type of fraud committed. Fraudulently depriving someone of money in general may be charged under California’s laws against grand theft, codified in Penal Code 487 PC, if the fraud does not fit a more specific crime listed elsewhere.
Embezzlement is defined by Penal Code 503 PC but is charged under Penal Code 487 PC for grand theft or Penal Code 484 PC for petty theft, depending on the amount at issue. Embezzlement of under $950 is considered petty, while anything more is considered grand theft.
Petty theft is a misdemeanor that carries up to 6 months in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Grand theft is a “wobbler” that can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on what the prosecutor decides when viewing the defendant’s background and the facts of the case. Misdemeanor grand theft can result in up to a year in county jail. Felony grand theft can carry up to a 3-year term in county jail, or if a firearm was stolen, state prison.
Embezzlement is committed when a person has been entrusted with someone else’s money or property, and intending to deprive that person of it, fraudulently appropriates it. The term may bring to mind high-paid corporate employees stealing large amounts of money from business accounts, but this is not necessarily the case. No matter the amount or situation, taking or even using someone else’s property that has been entrusted to you can be considered embezzlement.
Bribery is an attempt to influence a public official in the course of their duties by giving them something of value (money, gifts, etc.) in return for a desired action, such as voting a certain way. Depending on the type of official involved, bribery is covered under several different sections of the Penal Code. Both sides of the transaction, giver and recipient, can be charged, and no actual exchange must take place. It is enough to simply offer to give or agree to take a bribe to be charged.
Except in certain circumstances for small bribes of lesser officials, bribery is a felony with very serious penalties. You could have to serve a term of incarceration for 2-to-4 years, and if you are an official, you will have to give up your office. Even if the bribe was not actually taken, you could have to pay fines of $2,000-$10,000. If the bribe was completed, you could pay up to twice the total amount of the bribe.
Money laundering is the process of concealing the origins of money related to illegal activity by “washing” it through a series of business transactions or banking transfers. This can be done either to make the illegal proceeds of crime appear “clean”, or to facilitate a criminal enterprise by funding it. For example, a criminal might deposit money in foreign banks, or add illegal money to the revenue reports of a legitimate business.
In California, money laundering is covered generally by Penal Code Section 186.10 PC. The crime of money laundering has three elements under this section. First, one or more transactions must have been done through a financial institution. Second, the amount of funds involved must total more than $5,000 within 7 days or more than $25,000 within 30 days. Finally, there is a specific intent requirement – the transaction(s) must have been done to intentionally facilitate criminal activity or knowingly obscure the source of money from crime.
For money laundering specifically related to drug crimes, you can be charged instead under the relevant portion of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act, found in the California Health and Safety Code Section 11370.9 HSC. In addition, for money laundering involving financial transactions across state lines, you can be prosecuted for a federal crime as defined by 18 United States Code 1955 and 1956 U.S.C.
Like other white-collar crimes already discussed, money laundering is a “wobbler” under California law that can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. In determining this, prosecutors will likely look at your criminal history and the amount stolen. The penalties will depend on how prosecutors decide to charge you and the total amount of money involved.
For misdemeanor money laundering, up to a year in county jail can be imposed. For felonies, you can get up to 3 years state prison and a fine of $250,000, or twice the total sum of money laundered, whichever is more. Additionally, courts can add one year to the sentence if over $50,000 was laundered, and four years if more than $2,500,000 was laundered. If you are charged federally, you could get up to 20 years in federal prison.
Other Types of White-Collar Crime
The examples of white-collar crime listed above are by no means exhaustive. Other crimes such as extortion and forgery are defined in the California Penal Code. Extortion is found in Penal Code 518 PC, while forgery is in Penal Code 473 PC.
Other crimes that are traditionally thought of as being white-collar crimes are made illegal by different laws, including insider trading, forbidden by Corporations Code Section 25402, and tax evasion, which is codified in Revenue and Taxation Code 19706. These crimes can also be charged in federal court.
White-Collar Crime, Federal Bureau of Investigation – An FBI article about different types of white-collar crime. Includes sections on corporate fraud, money laundering, and securities and commodities fraud. Written from a pro-law enforcement perspective, this page is informative, but we know that not everyone charged with white-collar crimes is guilty and that even those who are guilty deserve the best criminal defense available.
White-Collar Crime, Legal Information Institute, Cornell Law School – This page has more information about white-collar crime. Included is a list of relevant Supreme Court cases. The site also has links to several law journal articles about white-collar crime.
Attorney for White-Collar Crime in California
It can be frightening when you are facing a criminal conviction for a white-collar crime, but you need not go through the difficult criminal process alone. Retaining an aggressive, experienced attorney like Jay Leiderman is essential if you want to give yourself the best chances to keep your freedom.
Headquartered in Ventura, Jay Leiderman Law has represented people across California on charges ranging from petty theft to murder. Call (805) 654-0200 today for a free initial consultation. Together we can outline a strategy specifically developed for your unique situation and fight your white-collar charges.