The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) recently announced a crackdown on economic crimes like theft and fraud. The announcement comes after a report finding that investigations into corporate crimes have significantly decreased in recent years.
But what does this mean? White collar crimes remain a bit of a mystery. We dug into this area of criminal law in more detail in a previous post, available here, to help shine a light on what the government means when it labels criminal activity as white collar crimes. As noted in the post, these generally include allegations of fraud like healthcare, bank, and credit card fraud as well as money laundering, securities law violations and tax evasion.
So why is the government increasing enforcement efforts? The feds claims that there was a discrepancy in the past, that Donald Trump’s administration was less focused on enforcement. Regardless of the reason for the push, the fact is the feds are likely to increase enforcement efforts within this sector of criminal law in coming months.
The DOJ has also stated it welcomes advice from legal scholars on the best path forward. This signals more than just an initial wave of investigation and prosecution efforts, but also the possibility of a new unit to focus on high-level white-collar crimes. Some experts involved in these discussions have stated that there is a possibility these efforts could result in the development of a task force or unit to focus on corporate crimes.
Penalties are serious.
There is a misnomer that since these crimes do not result in physical harm, the penalties are not as severe as other crimes. Recent cases show otherwise. Bernard Madoff’s case is a good example. The government built a successful case against the financier in 2009. The prosecution accused him of using money from current investors to pay off former investors — a veritable Ponzi Scheme. The court sentenced him to 150 years imprisonment for his crime.
Although that example is on the extreme end, the fact is you can go to prison for financial crimes if the government can build a successful case. Examples of the types of prison sentences that can apply include:
- Corporate fraud. Accounting schemes, self-dealing and attempts to defraud investors about the financial state of a company can result in criminal charges. The penalties vary depending on the details, but a conviction for false statements of material fact can come with five years’ imprisonment.
- Mortgage fraud. According to the most recent data, the government fought hard for harsh penalties when it came to lying to get a mortgage and other forms of mortgage fraud—and these efforts paid off. 84.7% of all offenders were sentenced to imprisonment with an average sentence of 22 months.
- Identity theft. These penalties are often subject to state law. In Colorado, those accused of identity theft face felony charges and four to eight years imprisonment.
Because of these serious penalties it is important for those who face these types of allegations to take the matter seriously. You can fight back. An attorney experienced in defending against allegations of economic crimes can help.