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What is a white-collar crime?

Not all criminal offenses involve violent crimes like robbery, rape and murder. Some criminal charges in New York may stem from financial transactions where one person commits or a group of people conspire to commit a crime, mainly for financial gain. This type of behavior is often referred to as a white-collar crime, to distinguish it from violent offenses.

The term "white-collar crime" was first used in a speech at the American Sociological Society in 1939, to describe nonviolent offenses committed in a financial institution. Today, white collar crimes come in different forms, such as trade secret theft, money laundering, embezzlement, economic espionage, public corruption, tax evasion and financial fraud. Those offenses can be difficult to prosecute due to the number of financial transactions involved, some of which may have been made to mislead or conceal illegal activity.

The government has the authority to press white-collar crime charges against an individual or a corporation, and these crimes may be prosecuted under both state and federal law. Sometimes, the accused is encouraged to cooperate with authorities in the investigation, which can lead to reduced fines and penalties. A white-collar crime conviction can lead to a prison sentence, supervised release, restitution, forfeitures of assets and fines. Even after serving any jail time or paying any fines, the accused person's reputation may be severely damaged as a result of a conviction and the person may have trouble securing new employment.

Anyone accused of such an offense will want to defend themselves against the damaging allegations to the best of their ability.

Source: Cornell.edu, "White-collar crime," accessed on July 27, 2014

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