White Collar Crime Money and a GavelWhen someone talks about a "white-collar crime," they are usually referring to some type of fraud. The term comes from the fact that perpetrators of fraud historically were professionals who wore dress shirts that were—once upon a time—always white. These days, fraud can be committed by anyone, professional office workers or not, so the term doesn't always make sense. However, we still use the term to refer to non-violent financial crimes in Florida.

If you are arrested and charged with a white-collar crime, it's important that you take it seriously and don't assume that you'll get off easy because you didn't physically harm anyone. You will need an experienced defense attorney, just like any other criminal defendant.

Types of White-Collar Crimes That Are Pursued in Florida

Federal and state law enforcement officers aggressively pursue a range of white-collar crimes in Florida, even though they are non-violent, because they often involve large amounts of money and cause emotional and economic harm to their victims. Typical white-collar crimes we see being charged in Florida include:

  • Securities fraud. Involves deceptive practices in the stock market, such as insider trading or misleading investors. Victims are typically individual investors or shareholders who suffer financial losses due to fraudulent activities.
  • Embezzlement. Refers to the misappropriation or theft of funds entrusted to an individual in a position of trust, such as an employee or a financial officer. Victims can include businesses, organizations, or individuals whose assets are unlawfully diverted for personal gain.
  • Mortgage fraud. Involves deceptive practices in the mortgage industry, such as falsifying documents or inflating property values. Financial institutions, lenders, or homeowners who may face foreclosure or financial loss due to fraudulent mortgage transactions are often targets of this kind of fraud.
  • Identity theft. Occurs when someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person's personal information for financial gain. Anyone can be a victim of identity theft, including individuals, businesses, and financial institutions.
  • Money laundering. Involves concealing the origins of illegally obtained money by making it appear as if it came from legitimate sources. Money laundering operations often target governments, financial institutions, and businesses.
  • Insurance fraud. Refers to making false insurance claims or providing misleading information to obtain insurance benefits. Insurance companies are the primary victims of fraud, but policyholders also suffer by facing higher premiums or denied claims due to fraudulent activities.
  • Health care fraud. Involves submitting false claims, overbilling, or providing unnecessary medical services to obtain fraudulent payments from health care programs. Perpetrators of health care fraud are usually medical providers but can also be patients in certain situations.
  • Tax evasion. Refers to intentionally evading or underreporting taxes owed to the government. The U.S. Treasury Department reported in 2021 that the wealthiest one percent of Americans commit the most tax evasion.
  • Bribery. Involves offering, giving, receiving, or soliciting something of value to influence the actions of an individual in a position of power or authority. Targets of bribery can include individuals, businesses, and organizations.
  • Racketeering. Refers to engaging in a pattern of criminal activities, often within an organized group, for financial gain. Extortion, illegal gambling, and other criminal enterprises can be prosecuted as racketeering.
  • Forgery. Involves creating or altering documents with the intent to deceive or defraud others. Commonly forged documents include passports, driver's licenses, birth certificates, checks, contracts, and invoices.

Despite the range of crimes and the different names they are given, most white-collar crime boils down to a form of fraud or theft.

Potential Penalties for White-Collar Crimes

When large amounts of money are involved, these crimes carry much more serious penalties than burglary or robbery involving a small amount of money and no weapons. Defendants who are accused of victimizing ten or more elderly individuals, 20 or more younger individuals, or targeting the State of Florida can be charged with an aggravated white-collar crime, which carries significant penalties. Because of the potential prison time you face, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney by your side from the moment you are arrested.

Brandy Merrifield
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Florida Criminal Defense Attorney