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Criminal Defense / 10.24.2018

What Are White Collar Crimes

What’s a White Collar Crime?

We use the term “white collar crime” in reference to financially motivated, nonviolent crime often committed by business and government professionals. Within the realm of criminology, the term “white collar crime” was first coined by sociologist Edwin Sutherland in 1939 as “a crime committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of his occupation.”

White Collar vs. Blue Collar

In the realm of criminology, blue-collar crime refers to those crimes carried out by individuals generally of a lower social class or those whose business is more often a trade such as construction vs. an office-based or corporate profession

White collar crimes include embezzlement, securities fraud, insider trading, perjury, money laundering and corporate fraud. In Tennessee, the legislature has consolidated these specific theft crimes and classifies all theft cases as felonies or misdemeanors based on the value of the property or the amount of the alleged theft.

White collar offenses are usually committed by seemingly successful individuals instead of individuals living in poverty like many so-called blue-collar criminals. Those alleged of committing such white-collar crimes are often educated individuals who had access to plenty of resources, yet they still chose to resort to crime.

Jurisdiction and Charges

In the majority of cases, the government charges individuals for white-collar crimes, though it also has the power to sanction corporations as well. Individuals can often face Federal or State charges for the same alleged actions. Corporate crime can be committed by a corporation (a business entity having a separate legal personality from the natural persons that manage its activities), or by individuals acting on behalf of a corporation or other business entity.

Fraud and Scale

Corporate white-collar crime typically involves a large-scale fraud within the institution such as the place of business. An example can be found in Bank of America: the corporation sold billions in mortgage-backed securities which were tied to properties with inflated values. The bank contributed to the economic crash of 2009 by giving out loans without proper collateral.


Embezzlement is a common white collar crime involving theft or misappropriation of funds placed in an employee’s trust. This may be in the form of money, property or services.

Money Laundering

Money laundering is the process by which criminals disguise the original ownership and control of funds accumulated illegally, by making such proceeds appear to come from a legitimate source. There are multiple sneaky processes by which criminally derived money and property may be laundered. Sometimes the employee makes small deposits over time into accounts, often overseas. Suspicion is typically not aroused because the deposits are not significant.

Identity Theft

Identity theft is another kind of fraud that ranges from using a stolen credit card to opening bank accounts or mortgages with someone else’s personal information. Other types of white-collar crime include bankruptcy scams, tax evasion, extortion, blackmail and cyber crimes.

White Collar Crime on the Rise in the USA

The current rate at which white collar crimes are committed in the US  far exceeds that of blue-collar crimes, which have been declining in recent years. Nashville is no exception to this trend.

In the age of information, technological advances with computers have exacerbated the prevalence of white-collar crime while traditional crime remains unaffected. While a common misconception implies that white-collar crime is not as serious as blue-collar street crimes, these crimes affect many more individuals and also destroy lives. Because these crimes typically involve larger amounts of money, property, or services, it is far more likely that these charges will fall into the felony classifications risking years in prison and a permanent felony conviction.

White collar crime is often an economic or financial crime. While these crimes are not violent, they are not without victims. Crimes of this nature have a serious impact not only on their personal victims but on society, and the economy. They often involve numerous victims. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), white-collar crime is estimated to cost the United States more than 300 billion annually.

Consequences and Charges

Business managers and executives who commit financial fraud and other white-collar crimes can face prison time and harsh fines if convicted. The feds can also pursue financial damages from corporations that commit white-collar crimes on an institution-wide level.

The consequences for a white collar conviction can be very serious. You may face paying restitution, forfeiting your assets, and enduring a bad reputation in addition to serving prison time.

Representation and Legal Assistance

When facing fraud, embezzlement and other types of white collar crime cases, it is best to seek professional legal representation from an experienced criminal defense attorney such as those at Herbert & Lux.

Professionals at our firm have years of experience fighting hard for our clients. If you find yourself as a victim or accused of a white-collar crime, give our offices a call today to set up a consultation and learn how we can help.

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Disclaimer: The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute a client relationship.

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