The term “white collar crimes” may make you think that only professionals and government officials can commit them. While federal agencies often focus on public corruption and widespread financial fraud, literally anyone can be accused of committing a “white collar” crime. White collar crime actually refers to a category of non-violent offenses generally committed for commercial or financial gain. Examples of such crimes include:
- Healthcare fraud,
- Mortgage fraud,
- Bribery and public corruption,
- Computer fraud,
- Insider trading,
- Tax evasion,
- Mail fraud,
- Money laundering,
- Securities fraud,
- Identify theft, and
Federal and state financial laws and regulations are complex and ever-changing. A doctor may have no idea she’s incorrectly billing for her services, and a small business owner may mistakenly rely on an expired tax exemption.
If your business and financial transactions have caught the eye of Tennessee law enforcement, call the white collar defense attorneys at Barnes Law immediately. As an experienced federal and state defense attorney, John Barnes and his Knoxville team may be able to help. To schedule your free, confidential white collar defense consultation, call us today at (865) 805-5703 or contact us online.
The Most Common White Collar Offenses in the United States
Defending against white collar charges often depends on the specific offense alleged. According to research out of Northcentral University, the following are the most common white collar crimes in the United States:
- Embezzlement – Embezzlement occurs when an individual is entrusted with money or property, but he or she misuses the funds for personal gain.
- Corporate Fraud – Insider trading and falsifying corporate documents for financial gain are common crimes in the United States.
- Ponzi Schemes – These can be charged as mail, wire, or computer fraud. They occur when new investors’ funds are used to pay the promised “return” to original investors, but there is no other income. The scheme falls apart as soon as there aren’t enough new investors to support the scheme.
- Bankruptcy Fraud – When petitioners hide assets and otherwise misuse the bankruptcy system.
Your experienced white collar defense attorney will review the criminal statute you’ve been accused of violating and break down the elements of the offense. The government must have evidence to support each element. Finding the right defense to the allegations, therefore, often means finding the weakest element of the government’s case.
Lack of Intent Defense
Most individual defendants charged with a white collar crime must have the requisite intent to “defraud” someone for gain. For example, a businessman who makes an innocent mistake on his taxes probably doesn’t have the requisite “intent to defraud” the IRS. He may face additional tax liability, but that doesn’t always translate to a criminal offense. The same is true of bankruptcy fraud and mid-level investors in a Ponzi scheme. A bankruptcy petitioner who doesn’t know he must claim the equity in his car or an investor who doesn’t know she’s accepting illegally obtained money may not have the intent necessary to support a conviction.
Pre-Trial Evidentiary Defenses
White collar criminal investigations often involve advanced commuter and financial tracing techniques as well as personal financial information. Investigators must obtain a warrant through probable cause to access many of these personal and financial documents. If it appears your information was obtained in violation of certain privacy and criminal protections, an experienced white collar defense attorney may be able to have certain evidence excluded from consideration. This can mean the government can’t prove its case and must drop the charges against you.
Procedural & Constitutional Defenses
Every criminal defendant in Tennessee has the right to a speedy and public trial and to be confronted with the witnesses in the case. Because there is often a lot of evidence in financial cases, it may take prosecutors too long to bring your case to trial in violation of your Sixth Amendment rights. Further, every crime has a statute of limitations. This means you must be charged within a certain number of years after your crime was committed. Again, because there is typically a lot of evidence in white collar cases, the government might not charge you until after the statute of limitations.
Law enforcement officers who don’t have enough evidence to prove you committed a crime may try to trap you. This is called “entrapment.” It’s different than a sting in that law enforcement must use some type of coercion, fraud, or threats to actually set the crime in motion. If you wouldn’t have committed the charged crime but for law enforcement coercion, it may be entrapment. For example, you work for a major corporation and an uncover officer contacts you every day insisting you to use the corporate credit card to buy him a car. Instead of asking once, he continues to make up stories about false corporate liability and even threatens to sue you unless you purchase him a car. If you embezzle corporate funds to purchase the car and are arrested, this may rise to the level of entrapment.
Failure of Proof
After discovery, your Knoxville criminal defense attorney may review the evidence gathered by the government. If it appears this evidence is insufficient to prove you committed the alleged crime “beyond a reasonable doubt,” then he or she may ask that the charges be dropped. The same is true after the close of the government’s case at trial. If the government did not present evidence sufficient to prove each element of the crime, your attorney can move to have the case dismissed. The government has the burden of proving you committed the charged offense before you need to present a defense.
Contact a Knoxville White Collar Defense Lawyer Today to Schedule a Free Case Evaluation
If you’ve been indicted on federal or state white collar charges in Tennessee, you’re innocent until proven guilty. White collar investigations and prosecutions are complex, and they often involve old financial charges based on thousands of pages of evidence. Gathering evidence in your defense can be overwhelming, but there are multiple potential defenses to a white collar offense. Tell us your story by taking advantage of your free, confidential consultation with Knoxville defense attorney John Barnes. Call our office today at (865) 805-5703 or contact us online.