White-collar crime is skyrocketing! Tough economic times and the advent of hi-tech computer technology coupled with Wall Street fraud is proving tough times for all Americans. Who are the white-collar criminals? What is White-collar crime? How do these individuals arrive at a position of trust? What is law enforcement doing? Who will be affected next? Will you be next?
A white collar crime is many times defined as a non-violent crime involving deception and/or trickery, typically committed by a business person, public official, or someone of high stature, trust, or authority. Evidence in a white collar crime usually involves a paper trail of evidence that investigators use to prosecute the case. Although this definition may be true, it is hotly contested within the community of experts that try to define “White-Collar Crime”. Many experts feel there are three main characteristics that categorize a white-collar criminal. Some experts believe that white-collar crime should be defined by the high socioeconomic status and/or occupation of trust that the offender has. Others believe that white-collar crime should be defined by the type of offense committed i.e., fraud, counterfeiting, forgery, embezzlement, bribery, larceny, price fixing, racketeering, computer fraud, obstruction of justice, and perjury. Mixed in with these offenses is the increasingly popular securities fraud as typified by the recent cases of Bernard Madoff and New Jersey fund manager James Nicholson. Madoff allegedly confessed to his employees that he perpetuated a massive fraud scheme which could cost investors an unbelievable amount in excess of $50 billion. Forty-two year old James Nicholson is accused of defrauding his investors of as much as $900 million since 2004. Finally there are those that confine the definition of white-collar crime to strictly economic crimes or corporate crimes.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation defines white-collar crime only in terms of the offense. The Bureau has defined white-collar crime as “. . . those illegal acts which are characterized by deceit, concealment, or violation of trust and which are not dependent upon the application or threat of physical force or violence. Individuals and organizations commit these acts to obtain money, property, or services; to avoid the payment or loss of money or services; or to secure personal or business advantage.” (USDOJ, 1989, p. 3.)
In the years 1997 through 1999, white-collar crime accounted for less than 4.0 percent of the incidents reported to the FBI. The majority of those offenses were frauds, counterfeiting, and forgery. Currently, one in three American families is a victim of white-collar crime, yet very few are actually reported. Of those reported only 21% made it into the hands of a law enforcement agency. This translates into less than eight percent of all white-collar crimes reaching the proper authorities. These are very unsettling statistics for both consumers and businesses alike. The growth of the information age and the world wide use of the Internet have significantly changed the manner in which economic crimes are committed, the frequency of their commission, and the difficulty in the apprehension of the persons responsible. White-collar crime has certainly invaded our new, high-tech society. Statistics show that white-collar crime has skyrocketed from a national cost in 1970 of $5,000,000,000 to a staggering $100,000,000,000 in 1990. With all the advances in technology and the Internet since 1990, experts predict an exponential growth of white-collar crime in the future.
In an effort to combat this rapid rise in white-collar Internet crime, law enforcement officials including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Secret Service, Postal Inspection Service, Securities 몸캠피싱 대처 and Exchange Commission, and Customs officials have stepped up their efforts in fighting these crimes. Special units such as the National White Collar Crime Center, Internet Fraud Complaint Center, National Cybercrime Training Partnership, and the Coalition for the Prevention of Economic Crime have been formed to specifically fight white-collar crime.
This has certainly stepped up the investigation and prosecution of white-collar crimes and white-collar criminals. White-collar crimes can be prosecuted both at the state and federal level, depending on whether a state or federal law was broken. If convicted, these crimes usually result in long prison sentences, large fines, and restitution to the victims of the crime. Many times the restitution is so large that it never gets paid back. The days of a slap on the wrist, probation, a trip to Club Fed, and/or home confinement are over for white-collar defendants. New laws, stiffer penalties, and more vigorous prosecution of white-collar crimes all combine for longer sentences and higher security designations for white-collar criminals.
Due to current prison overcrowding and the large number of white-collar defendants being incarcerated, white-collar defendants are finding it more and more difficult to be designated close to their families and to be designated to a lower security federal prison. More and more white-collar defendants are being designated to geographically removed federal prisons far from their homes and families. Many white-collar defendants are also being designated to a higher security level federal prison.
Most white-collar offenders are ordinary people who got into financial difficulty and who saw their way out of it through illegal and fraudulent measures. Unfortunately, it used to be only the small fish that get caught and sentenced to a long federal prison term of incarceration, not the big fish that got away. The big fish used to be able to insulate themselves from the crime. There are so many people working at the small fish level that upper management can structure and direct the company so that the small fish are actually the individuals receiving the pressure to break the law, many times unknowingly. Upper management didn’t even have to get their hands dirty. This all combined for more and more white-collar small fish criminals being investigated, prosecuted, and sentenced to long terms of incarceration in federal prisons. But the current trend is changing all this. Federal prosecutors, in a large part due to public outrage, are now going for the big fish as well as the small fish. Enron, Martha Stewart, Bernard Madoff, James Nicholson, and the current economic crisis in banking, foreclosures, and Wall Street securities fraud have played a major role in this change. Now, when it comes to conviction and sentencing, the higher the socioeconomic status of the offender, the stiffer the sentence juries vote for. Thus both the small fish and big fish white-collar criminals are receiving harsher, stiffer, and longer federal prison sentences.