White collar crime is a broad area, with varying definitions of what it actually is. The idea was first presented by Edwin H. Sutherland during the American Sociological Society Meeting presidential address in 1939. Since then, the list of activities that fall under the white collar crime umbrella has become extensive. In Florida, legislation exists in an attempt to prevent and punish white collar crime.
What is White Collar Crime?
The Federal Bureau of Investigation defines white collar crime as “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.” However, it is important to note that other definitions focus on the background of the offender, as opposed to the actions of the offender. Under these definitions, white collar crime is considered to include offenses committed by business professionals or people involved in government.
In Florida, the White Collar Crime Victim Prevention Act (Act) provides greater penalties for those who commit white collar crimes. The purpose of the Act is to better protect all victims, but particularly those who are elderly. The Act applies in situations where victims are “deceived and cheated by criminals who commit nonviolent frauds and swindles.” White collar crime is defined as “the commission of, or conspiracy to commit, any felony offense” relating to:
- The Money Transmitters’ Code.
- Theft, robbery, and related crimes.
- Computer-related crimes.
- Fraudulent practices.
- Abuse, neglect, and exploitation of elderly persons and disabled adults.
- Forgery and counterfeiting.
- The issuance of worthless checks and drafts.
- Bribery and misuse of public office.
- Offenses by public officers and employees.
- Offenses concerning racketeering and illegal debts.
- Offenses related to financial transactions.
Additionally, white collar crime means a felony offense that:
- Is committed with intent to defraud or that involves a conspiracy to defraud.
- Is committed with intent to temporarily or permanently deprive a person of his or her property or that involves a conspiracy to temporarily or permanently deprive a person of his or her property.
- Involves or results in the commission of fraud or deceit upon a person or that involves a conspiracy to commit fraud or deceit upon a person.
According to the Act, “aggravated white collar crime” is defined as engaging in at least two white collar crimes that are similar or “interrelated by distinguishing characteristics and are not isolated incidents.” The Act establishes that aggravated white collar crime may be considered a first degree felony if the person committing it obtains or attempts to obtain $50,000 and:
- Victimizes 10 or more elderly persons;
- Victimizes 20 or more persons; or
- Victimizes Florida, any state agency, or any of the state’s political subdivisions.
An elderly person is defined as a person at least 60 years old “who is suffering from the infirmities of aging…to the extent that the ability of the person to provide adequately for the person’s own care or protection is impaired.”
In addition to a prison sentence, a person convicted of aggravated white collar crime may face a minimum fine of $500,000. Additionally, the convicted person is liable for all court costs and must pay restitution to each victim, regardless of whether the victim was named in the information or indictment.
White Collar Criminal Defense Attorneys
White collar crime is a complex area of the law and may involve investigation by federal government agencies. If you have been accused or charged with a white collar crime, you need to speak with an experienced attorney as soon as possible. At Farkas & Crowley, P.A., we can provide the advocacy you need in any white collar crime matter. If you are in the West Palm Beach area, contact us today.