What Is a White Collar Crime?

White collar crimes are typically non-violent, financially motivated crimes involving deceit/concealment to gain a personal or business advantage or to obtain/avoid losing money or property. white collar crime

The top three white collar crimes include fraud, money laundering, and intellectual property theft.


Fraud involves deception to secure unfair or unlawful gain or to deprive a victim of a legal right. 

There are many types of fraud, such as: 

  • Insurance & Health Care Fraud — Examples of insurance fraud nclude false claims; premium diversion (embezzlement of premium payments by insurance agents); double billing; and fraudulent workers compensation. Healthcare fraud occurs when medical providers or patients intentionally deceive the healthcare system to receive unlawful benefits/payments (Medical Fraud: billing for treatments that were not actually administered; paying for patient referrals; forging prescriptions/selling prescription drugs). 
  • Business/Corporate Fraud — Falsification of financial information; insider trading (stock trading based on non-public information); embezzlement; bribery; misuse of company property/funds for personal gain; and other illicit transactions. 
  • Investment Fraud — Ponzi schemes; pyramid schemes; telemarketing schemes.
  • Mortgage & Financial Institution Fraud— When professionals in the home buying process steal cash and equity from lenders and homeowners, when borrowers lie about their incomes or assets on a loan application, influencing an appraiser to manipulate a property's value. \
  • Tax Fraud — Examples include tax evasion or filing a fraudulent tax return. 
  • Internet Fraud — Cybercrimes such as identity theft are fast-growing white-collar crimes. 
  • Mail & Wire Fraud — Using a physical or electronic mail system to commit fraud. Examples include sending fake invoices, running illegitimate online auctions, and stealing checks/prescriptions from a mailbox. Another example is credit card misuse (which can also occur online). 

Money Laundering 

Besides embezzlement and insider trading, money laundering is another prevalent financial white collar crime. According to the FBI, money laundering is “turning ‘dirty’ money ‘clean’ by making it look like money from crimes actually came from legitimate sources.”  Money laundering is typically used to hide and accumulate wealth, avoid taxes, increase profits through reinvestment, etc. The illegitimate profits are typically gained through financial crimes, fraud, human/drug trafficking, etc. The money is then laundered through various platforms, such as financial institutions (banks, credit unions, insurance companies, investment companies), international trade, real estate, or virtual currency. 

There are three steps in the money laundering process: 

  1. Placement — Entering the money into the financial system (through various mediums, such as the ones named above). 
  2. Layering — Separating the laundered money from the source to create a complex audit trail through a series of financial transactions (typically involving moving money internationally). 
  3. Integration — Retrieving the laundered money from what appear to be legitimate sources. 

Intellectual Property Theft/Piracy 

Intellectual property theft means stealing a person or company’s intellectual property, including ideas, inventions, creative expressions, trade secrets, proprietary products, movies, music, software, and more. An individual or a company can commit intellectual property theft to steal trade secrets, patents, copyrights, trademarks, or trade secrets (such as names, logos, symbols, client lists, and data), typically for their own personal/financial gain. 

What Are the Consequences of White Collar Crime? 

Although white collar crimes are non-violent, they can still impact an individual or company’s financial or personal wellbeing, and (depending on the severity of the crime) the punishments can include fines and jail time (besides other potential effects on public opinion and business success). In Ohio, white collar misdemeanors can include fines up to $1000 and/or a maximum of 180 days in jail. White-collar felonies in the first degree can include three to ten years in state prison and/or fines up to $20,000. 

Legal Defenses Against White Collar Crimes

Some legal defenses against white collar crimes include: 

  • Lack of Intent — The prosecution must prove that the defendant intended to commit the crime, knew that a crime was being committed, and/or acted with recklessness/negligence. Your attorney can typically prove this evidence as circumstantial. 
  • Illegal Search or Seizure — According to the Fourth Amendment, law enforcement must have reasonable cause to search or seize someone’s property or documents. If your attorney can prove the evidence was obtained illegally, it may be excluded from the case. 
  • Entrapment — Entrapment occurs when law enforcement (sometimes acting as undercover officers) coerce a person into committing a crime they wouldn’t otherwise do through threats, planted evidence, etc. 
  • Statute of Limitations — Your attorney could prove your case is beyond the statute of limitations, which is typically 5 years for white collar crimes or possibly 10 years for crimes against financial institutions. The timing can also vary for co-conspirators of a white collar crime.

Are you or someone you know facing criminal charges? 

If you are facing criminal charges, you need to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. The Law Offices of Steven R. Adams is recognized by Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers, The Best Lawyers in America, National Trial Lawyers Top 100, and is one of U.S. News' Best Law Firms.  Please contact us online or call our Cincinnati office directly at 513-929-9333 to schedule your free consultation. 

Tad Brittingham
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Criminal defense attorney Tad Brittingham is dedicated to serving his clients throughout the Cincinnati area
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