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San Francisco Criminal Defense Attorneys Explain White Collar Crimes

March 21, 2024 Uncategorized


San Francisco Criminal Defense Attorneys Explain White Collar Crimes

White collar crimes are nonviolent crimes committed by business professionals and government employees typically for financial gain. These crimes can carry serious penalties so having an experienced criminal defense attorney is crucial. In this article, San Francisco criminal defense attorneys provide an overview of common white collar crimes, potential defenses, and the value of skilled legal representation.

What Are White Collar Crimes?

The term “white collar crime” was coined by sociologist Edwin Sutherland in 1939 to refer to nonviolent crimes committed by corporations and affluent individuals in a professional setting. White collar crimes are motivated by financial gain and abuse of power. They are called “white collar” to distinguish them from violent “blue collar” crimes typically committed by individuals of lower socioeconomic status.

According to the FBI, common white collar crimes include[1]:

  • Fraud (credit card, healthcare, insurance, securities, mortgage, etc.)
  • Embezzlement
  • Bribery
  • Forgery
  • Counterfeiting
  • Cybercrime
  • Money laundering
  • Identity theft
  • Tax evasion

While white collar crimes do not involve direct violence or theft, they can still cause severe financial and emotional damage. San Francisco criminal defense attorney Jayne Law Group explains, “White collar crimes may seem innocuous compared to violent crimes, but they still carry serious penalties and deserve vigorous legal representation.”[2]

White Collar Crime Penalties

Despite being nonviolent offenses, white collar crimes carry stiff penalties. Under federal law, most white collar offenses are felonies punishable by hefty fines and years in prison. For example:

  • Wire fraud – up to 20 years imprisonment and $250,000 fine per count[3]
  • Tax evasion – up to 5 years imprisonment and $100,000 fine per count[4]
  • Money laundering – up to 20 years imprisonment and $500,000 fine per count[5]

Defendants also face asset forfeiture, restitution, and probation. Penalties increase for repeat offenders.

Attorney Matt Sullivan explains, “White collar crime sentences often surprise my clients. Even first-time offenses can result in years behind bars. These are not light misdemeanors.”[4]

Common White Collar Crime Defenses

Skilled criminal defense attorneys utilize many strategies to build a strong defense in white collar crime cases. Common defenses include[6]:

Lack of criminal intent – Most white collar crimes require prosecutors to prove you knowingly and intentionally committed fraud or deception. Your lawyer can argue you did not intend to break the law.

Improper financial reporting – In accounting fraud cases, it may be possible to show the financial reports were simply inaccurate or misleading, not intentionally fraudulent.

Entrapment – If law enforcement pressured you into committing a crime you otherwise wouldn’t, an entrapment defense may apply.

Statute of limitations – Most federal white collar crimes have a 5 year statute of limitations. If the crime occurred beyond that, charges may be dismissed.

Jurisdictional challenges – Federal white collar crime jurisdiction requires prosecutors to prove interstate commerce was impacted. Your attorney can argue jurisdiction does not exist.

Constitutional violations – Evidence obtained via illegal search or seizure, or other constitutional breach, can be suppressed on Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendment grounds.

Necessity/duress – It may be possible to argue you only committed the crime out of necessity or because of threats.

An experienced white collar crime lawyer like Seth P. Chazin can analyze the facts of your case to determine which defenses give you the best chance of an acquittal or mitigated sentence. [6]

Why Hire a White Collar Criminal Defense Attorney?

Facing white collar criminal charges can be overwhelming. The financial penalties and reputation damage alone can destroy careers and livelihoods. For the best chance at minimizing penalties, experts recommend hiring an experienced white collar crime lawyer immediately.

Criminal defense attorneys like Hallinan & Wine offer many advantages, such as[5]:

  • Expertise – They have extensive knowledge of complex white collar crime laws and courtroom experience.
  • Objectivity – They provide an unbiased perspective to balance the prosecution’s accusations.
  • Resources – They have teams of legal professionals to build a strong defense.
  • Negotiation – They can negotiate with prosecutors for reduced charges or sentencing leniency.
  • Trial skills – If necessary, they have the litigation experience to take your case to trial.
  • Peace of mind – Their guidance helps clients get through the legal process with less stress.

When choosing an attorney, it is wise to look for someone experienced specifically in white collar defense cases. Lawyers like John J. Bartko who specialize in white collar crimes often get better results. [1]

Examples of White Collar Crimes

To better understand white collar crimes, here are examples San Francisco criminal defense attorneys commonly see:


Embezzlement involves stealing money or assets from an employer. It often starts small, with an employee taking extra money from the cash register, and grows over time. Common examples include:

  • Company accountant steals from expense accounts
  • Bank manager diverts client funds into personal account
  • Nonprofit treasurer uses organization funds for herself

Defense strategies may include arguing the money was borrowed with intent to repay, or someone else had access to the funds.

Tax Evasion

Tax evasion is illegally avoiding paying owed taxes, such as by deliberately underreporting income, overstating deductions, hiding assets, or using shell corporations. Common examples include:

  • Business owner maintains two sets of books to hide income
  • Individual fails to report cash income from side jobs
  • Corporation conceals overseas assets from the IRS

Possible defenses are showing a lack of intent, financial mistakes rather than fraud, or relying on a dishonest tax preparer.

Money Laundering

Money laundering hides the source of illegally obtained money by filtering it through legitimate businesses. Examples include:

  • Drug traffickers invest dirty money in cash-based businesses like restaurants
  • Online scammers route stolen funds through layers of bank accounts
  • Corporate executives disguise bribe money as consulting fees

Defense lawyers scrutinize the paper trail to show legitimate sources, improper financial reporting, or lack of criminal knowledge.

Securities Fraud

Securities fraud is deceiving investors to gain investment funds or manipulate stock prices. Examples include:

  • Company falsifies financial data to appear profitable for investors
  • Stockbroker churns client accounts to generate excess commissions
  • CEO makes false statements to boost stock price before selling shares

Securities fraud cases often come down to proving intent and knowledge. Defenses focus on good faith mistakes, ambiguous regulations, and lack of intent.

Consult with a White Collar Crime Attorney

Facing white collar crime charges can be daunting. But an experienced criminal defense attorney can thoroughly analyze your case’s strengths and weaknesses and build an aggressive defense to achieve the best possible outcome. For personalized guidance from a top San Francisco white collar crime lawyer, contact:

  • John J. Bartko – [1]
  • Jayne Law Group – [2]
  • Matt Sullivan – [4]
  • Hallinan & Wine – [5]
  • Seth P. Chazin – [6]

They will protect your rights, devise an effective legal strategy, and fight to mitigate penalties so you can move forward. With skilled legal representation, many clients avoid prison time and preserve their livelihoods despite serious allegations. Don’t go it alone against complex white collar crime charges.

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