Although white collar crimes aren’t seen as violent crimes, the law takes them just as seriously as a violent crime. And because they usually involve large sums of money, prosecutors are especially vigilant in getting a conviction.
But what is a white collar crime anyway?
Well, a white collar crime is a general, umbrella term for a broad spectrum of financial and corporate crimes. There are too many crimes to discuss in detail here today, so I’m just going to go over a few of the most common ones.
1. Embezzlement. Embezzlement is when a person has control of someone else’s money and steals all or part of it to increase their own bank account. So, legally, the supposed offender had access to the money, but they don’t have ownership of the money. Some people look at this simply as theft, but someone who embezzles is also in a position of trust, so it’s treated differently.
A New Castle woman was convicted of embezzling $180,000 from her employer and was sentenced to 4 years in prison. The greater the amount of money, the greater the penalty. So if you embezzle less than $500, you might only be looking at 3 to 6 months in jail. Over $20,000 is anywhere from 4 to 12 years.
2. Extortion. A person commits extortion when they try to get money or property with threats. Those threats can be potential bodily harm or injury, threats to someone’s loved ones or property, threats to go to the police, or even threats to ruin someone’s reputation.
In Colorado, criminal extortion is a class 4 felony, punishable by 4 to 6 years in jail. If someone threatens to cause harm by “chemical, biological, or harmful radioactive agents, weapons, or poison,” they can be accused of aggravated extortion, a class 3 felony punishable by 4 to 12 years in jail.
There have been some famous celebrity extortion cases, including one with Oprah. One of her former employees tried to extort $1.5 million from her in 2005. He later filed a $180 million lawsuit against Oprah after publishing a tell-all book. Eventually, he was arrested for his actions.
3. Blackmail. Blackmail is similar to extortion, but instead of just threatening someone for money, you’re also threatening to reveal confidential and often compromising or incriminating information. If you found out someone was having an affair, for example, you could potentially blackmail them for money in exchange for not telling their spouse.
John Stamos, everyone’s favorite Uncle Jesse from Full House, was blackmailed for $700,000 back in 2009 when a man and a woman threatened to release indecent pictures of him to the media. Stamos worked with the FBI to eventually catch the blackmailers.
4. Tax evasion. What do Martha Stewart, Wesley Snipes, Willie Nelson, and Nicolas Cage have in common? They’ve all been accused of evading their taxes. If you don’t pay your taxes or pay less than what you should, you too can be charged with tax evasion. And you can be charged under both Colorado state and federal laws. In Colorado, tax evasion is a class 5 felony with up to 3 years in jail and $100,000 in fines. So for not paying your taxes, you can end up having to pay what you owe plus an even bigger fine.
If you have been accused of these white collar crimes or any white collar crime, you should contact an experienced white collar crimes attorney who will be able to look at your case and determine the best way to proceed to fight those charges.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012 and 2013 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. She has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.