White Collar Crime
What collar crime, as defined in F.S. 775.0844(3), is a conspiracy to commit or the commission of any felony offense as specified in the listed chapters that relate to theft or fraudulent practices.
In more general terms, it is understood as non-violent offenses committed for financial gain. Its moniker is derived from the idea that it was usually “white collar workers” – managers, business owners, bankers, government workers, lawyers, doctors and other professionals – who were the culprits. That’s why they have sometimes been referred to as “economic crime,” “avocational crime,” “upperworld crime,” “crimes of the powerful and “abuse of the power.”
The Fort Lauderdale white collar criminal defense attorneys at The Law Offices of Richard Ansara know these offenses are tackled by increasingly well-funded and adept law enforcement agencies with economic crimes units at both the state and federal levels.
Although no one may be physically harmed by the alleged acts, the Florida Legislature took note of the economic, psychological and emotional upheaval on victims – particularly the elderly, who are frequent targets. These actions often involve substantial sums of money, and punished more severely than an average theft case.
Examples of white collar theft crime may include:
- Scheme to defraud
- Pyramid schemes
- Mortgage fraud
- Credit card fraud
- Grand theft
- Insurance fraud
- Counterfeit securities
- Worthless checks
- Accounting fraud
- Healthcare fraud
- Identity theft
The White Collar Crime Victim Protection Act, enacted by the Florida Legislature in 2001 response to an onslaught of these crimes, takes into account how many people were affected, the amount of the funds stolen and how greatly people were harmed. The Office of the State Attorney for the Tenth Judicial Circuit explains these crimes involve:
- The commission of fraud or deceit or conspiracy to commit either on a person;
- A felony offense committed or conspiracy to commit a felony offense with intent to permanently or temporarily deprive someone of his or her property;
- A felony offense that involves or results in fraud or deceit on a person or involves conspiracy to commit fraud or deceit.
These offenses are spelled out specifically in:
- Chapter 560, relating to Money Transmitters’ Code
- Chapter 812, relating to Theft
- Chapter 815, relating to Computer Crimes
- Chapter 817, relating to Fraudulent Practices
- Chapter 825, relating to Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of Elderly Persons and Disabled Adults
- Chapter 831, relating to Forgery and Counterfeiting
- Chapter 832, relating to the Issuance of Worthless Checks and Drafts
- Chapter 838, relating to Bribery and Misuse of Public Office
- Chapter 895, relating to offenses of Racketeering and Illegal debts
- Chapter 896, relating to Financial Transaction Offenses
Meanwhile, “aggravated white collar crimes” under the act involve:
- Committing at least two or more white collar crimes with the same or similar intents, results, accomplices, victims or methods of commission;
- Victimizing at least 10 or more elderly persons;
- Victimizing at least 20 or more people;
- Victimizing the state of Florida, any state agency or any of its political subdivisions or agencies of those subdivisions.
In many situations, individuals who commit these crimes are ordinary folks who make uncharacteristically impetuous or poor decisions. They aren’t necessarily trying to hurt anyone, but they may see the opportunity as a way out of a tight financial spot.
There are a number of effective defenses that can be asserted. An experienced white collar defense attorney with significant experience in strategic handling of the complex legal issues involved ensures the best possible chance of a favorable outcome.Penalties for White Collar Crime in Florida
Most laws authorize a prison sentence and/or a substantial monetary fine for white collar offenses in Florida. There is a common myth that those convicted of white collar crimes do “easy time,” in comfortable minimum-security prisons There is no guarantee that sentences will be served in minimum security lock-ups, and there is definitely no assurance that those “accommodations” are going to be in any way comfortable.
The actual penalty will depend heavily on:
- The type of crimes alleged
- The number of victims
- The amount of the alleged theft
- The identity of the victims (i.e., government, vulnerable individuals, etc.)
- The criminal history of defendant
- The strength of your criminal defense, as presented by your attorney
- The strength of mitigating circumstances, as presented by your defense lawyer
For example, committing a worthless checks crime, per F.S. 832.05, is either a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail, or a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison.
Meanwhile, if you commit identity theft on dozens of people, you could be facing a second- or first-degree felony, punishable by maximums of between 15 and 30 years in prison. However, the circumstances of the crime may only result in conviction of a third-degree misdemeanor, which could mean little to no jail time at all.
If someone commits an aggravated white collar crime and obtains or attempts to obtain $50,000 or more, it is considered a first-degree felony, punishable by up to 30 years in prison.