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Are White Collar Crimes Felonies?

The Definition of White Collar Crime

The definition of white collar crime provided by the FBI is crimes that are financially motivated and generally nonviolent in nature. This includes public corruption, health care fraud, mortgage fraud, securities fraud and money laundering. Whether the crime is a felony depends on several factors.

Are White Collar Crimes Felonies?

White collar crimes are generally theft crimes, and whether the crime is a misdemeanor or a felony depends on the amount of money involved and whether the offense is charged in Texas state court or by the U.S. government in federal court.

Under Texas law, if the white collar crime involved less than $1,500 of ill-gotten gains, the crime is a misdemeanor. If more than $1,500 is involved under Texas law, the crime is a felony. If charged in federal court, the white collar crime is a felony.

What Are the Consequences of White Collar Crime?

Penalties Under Texas Law

Under Texas law, a theft offense that involves more than $1,500 is a felony. The degree of felony and length of incarceration time depends on the amount of money the state can prove was stolen. For example:

  • Theft of $1,500 to $20,000 is a state felony with prison time of between 180 days and 2 years. A fine of up to $10,000 may also be imposed.
  • Theft of $20,000 to $100,000 is a third-degree felony with prison time between 2 and 10 years. A fine of up to $10,000 may also be imposed.
  • Theft of $100,000 to $200,000 is a second-degree felony with prison time of between 5 and 99 years. A fine of up to $10,000 may also be imposed.

Judges may issue lighter sentences if they believe it will still serve the purpose of punishment. This may happen when the judge notes that this is a first offense, the defendant does not pose a danger to the community, and the defendant is not likely to commit another offense in the future. Penalties may then include community service, work release and/or fines.

Penalties Under Federal Law

Federal judges follow the US Sentencing Guidelines which consider many factors including but not limited to:

  • The amount of money in the offense. In federal court, the judge may consider the amount of money that could have been lost by the white collar scheme, not the actual amount that was lost.
  • The number of victims who lost money.
  • How severely the victims were impacted.
  • Whether the offense involved direct theft.

Under both state and federal law, in addition to the penalties discussed, your assets may be seized by the government if the government believes your assets were gotten by using illegal money you gained by committing the white collar crime.

What Are the Types of White Collar Crime?

There are many types of white collar crimes. Some are more serious than others because they harm more people. Some of the most common types are:

Corporate Fraud

  • Intentional faulty accounting to hide assets.
  • Self-dealing. This occurs when a person embezzles or appropriates corporate property for personal gain.
  • Obstruction of justice. This involves concealment of activities from regulatory bodies or law enforcement.
  • Insider trading. Employees at publicly held firms share information so others may profit with knowledge unavailable to the public.

Investment Fraud

  • Ponzi schemes
  • Pyramid schemes
  • Fake investments
  • Pump and dump schemes

Money Laundering

Money laundering is defined as the illegal process of making large sums of money that came from some type of criminal activity to appear to have come from a legal source. The most common type of money laundering is when money that was generated by manufacturing or selling controlled substances is made to look like it came from a legitimate business.

One example of money laundering is when someone owns a legitimate business, like a dry cleaner or a restaurant, and they inflate the amount of business they do by depositing the illegally gained cash into the business account.

What Is Aggravated White Collar Crime?

An aggravated white collar crime is one that, for example:

  • Harmed a large number of people.
  • Involved defrauding a health care institution or Medicare or Medicaid.
  • Defrauded elderly people.
  • Involved $100,000 or more.
  • The criminal conduct violated more than one state or federal statute.

When convicted of an aggravated white collar crime, the judge has the power to increase the sentence that is provided in the relevant Texas state statute. In federal court, the sentencing guidelines provide for an increase in the sentencing level if the crime is considered aggravated.

Consult a White Collar Criminal Defense Attorney

Being charged with any crime is stressful. Being charged with a white collar crime has serious implications for your future and changes your life. If convicted, you can lose your freedom for many years, have your assets seized and incur a hefty monetary fine.

You need a lawyer who has a track record of success. Attorney Michael J. Wynne is that attorney. He is a Harvard-educated criminal defense attorney who has devoted many years to representing clients charged with white collar crimes.

Attorney Wynne knows how the other side works. He spent years as a federal prosecutor before becoming a defense attorney. He knows what tactics prosecutors use against defendants. He puts this knowledge to work in defending his clients.

Contact him to schedule your 30-minute consultation.

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