27 Nov 23

The Most Common Federal White Collar Crimes Prosecuted in New York City

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Last Updated on: 15th December 2023, 05:26 pm

The Most Common Federal White Collar Crimes Prosecuted in New York City

White collar crime is a big deal in New York City. As a major financial hub–with Wall Street, big banks, hedge funds, and more–there’s a lot of potential for shady business practices. From financial fraud to bribery and corruption, white collar crimes can cost victims millions of dollars.

Federal prosecutors in New York take white collar crime very seriously. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) has a whole complex frauds unit dedicated to investigating and prosecuting complex white collar cases.

Common White Collar Crimes

Here are some of the most common white collar crimes prosecuted by federal authorities in New York City:

  • Securities fraud – This includes insider trading, accounting fraud, pump-and-dump schemes, and other ways companies or individuals manipulate financial markets for gain.
  • Bank fraud – Defrauding banks or credit unions, whether its check kiting, fake loans, credit card scams, etc.
  • Money laundering – Attempting to hide the source of illicit funds or make them appear legitimate.
  • Tax evasion – Not reporting income, falsely deducting business expenses, hiding assets overseas, and other schemes to avoid paying taxes.
  • Bribery and corruption – Bribing public officials or other abuses of power for personal enrichment.

There are both civil and criminal laws prohibiting these activities. On the criminal side, charges may include wire fraud, mail fraud, conspiracy, racketeering, and failure to file currency reports. Civil charges can include SEC violationsor forfeiture of ill-gotten gains.

Notable Recent Cases

Federal prosecutors in New York have brought some massive white collar cases in recent years. Here’s a quick rundown of some key cases:

Insider Trading Crackdown

The SDNY has prosecuted a ton of insider trading cases, including against big hedge fund managers like Steve Cohen’s SAC Capital. These cases rely on charges like securities fraud and wire fraud.Some convictions have been overturned on appeal, but many big names are doing prison time.

FIFA Corruption

In 2015, SDNY unsealed a huge indictment against FIFA officials alleging wire fraud, racketeering, and money laundering totaling over $150 million in bribes and kickbacks. Many ultimately plead guilty and several officials received multi-year prison sentences.

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Bernie Madoff

Bernie Madoff ran the biggest Ponzi scheme in history, defrauding investors out of around $65 billion over decades. He was convicted of securities fraud, investment advisor fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, and perjury. Madoff got a 150 year prison sentence and died behind bars in 2021 at age 82.

Opioid Cases

Federal prosecutors have targeted opioid makers like Purdue Pharma with charges like wire fraud and RICO violations for allegedly making false claims about the safety and efficacy of prescription opioids. In 2020, Purdue plead guilty to three felonies and agreed to $8.3 billion in criminal fines and civil penalties as part of a settlement.


Penalties for federal white collar convictions can be severe. Under federal sentencing guidelines, prison sentences are calculated based on the amount of financial loss. Other factors like the sophistication of the fraud, number of victims, leadership role, and prior record can enhance sentences. Fines can also be massive, sometimes reaching hundreds of millions for large corporate cases.

Even lower level white collar offenses can mean years in prison. Tax crimes over $100,000, for example, can trigger 5 year mandatory minimum sentences. And restitution to victims is almost always ordered on top of fines and imprisonment.


Fighting complex white collar charges requires experienced defense counsel. Possible defenses include:

  • No intent – Prosecutors must prove intent elements like knowingly, willfully, corruptly, etc. Lack of intent can defeat charges.
  • Good faith – Honest belief that actions were lawful, even if mistaken, can defeat fraud charges which require intent to deceive.
  • Statute of limitations – Many financial crimes have 5 or 6 year statutes of limitation barring charges.
  • Suppression – Evidence obtained illegally in violation of 4th/5th Amendment rights may be suppressed.
  • Cooperation – Providing substantial assistance to prosecutors in other cases can lead to reduced or dismissed charges.

An experienced white collar defense attorney can analyze the evidence and applicable law to craft the best defense strategy in a given case.


[1] Some convictions have been overturned on appeal

[2] huge indictment against FIFA officials