White Collar Crime Attorney in West Palm Beach
Ohle Law Specializes in Federal Criminal Charges
In recent years, computer network hacking, identity theft, insider trading, and various types of fraud have appeared more frequently in news headlines. These offenses are known as white collar crimes, criminal offenses that are typically of a nonviolent nature and are advanced in the interest of acquiring illegal financial gain. The perpetrators are usually business executives, members of organized crime rings, and government officials, though everyday people also commit white collar crimes. Victims may range from financial institutions, companies, and shareholders to ordinary consumers and the general public at large. The term “white collar crime” is a general descriptor for several offenses.
White collar crime and federal prosecution
The federal government prosecutes white collar crime very aggressively. While many of the efforts to regulate white collar crimes span several decades, some of the government measures that are currently used to track and investigate business and finance crimes were expanded through the Patriot Act. However, since the financial collapse of 2008, the government has further increased its efforts to impose additional regulations and go after criminals who commit fraud and other finance-oriented offenses. The different areas of business and government in which white collar criminals operate are various; therefore, apart from having the objective of financial enrichment, other aspects of white collar crimes may differ greatly from case to case.
- BRIBERY: Virtually everyone knows how bribery works. One person offers another a gift in exchange for cooperation. Bribery happens all the time in households that have children. Nevertheless, the same dynamic becomes a serious federal crime where government officers and business executives are involved. Federal law prohibits political agents from soliciting or demanding anything with a value that exceeds $5,000 with the intent to be used as a reward or to leverage influence.
- PONZI SCHEMES: Ponzi schemes are an investor’s worst nightmare. Those who advance the scheme pose as agents of a seemingly successful enterprise that actually does not exist. Potential investors are promised returns that far exceed the interest rates banks offer on traditional investment products. The scheme begins to collapse when the investors begin withdrawing their returns as there is never enough money to cover the victims’ initial investment plus the promised gains. The lack of funds is exacerbated by the fact that people who create and execute ponzi schemes generally use the investors’ money to fund their own lavish lifestyles. Because ponzi schemes resemble a real business, there is also the potential for unsuspecting people to become involved in the illegal enterprise as employees and to be subjected to criminal investigation and federal charges.
- RICO / RACKETEERING: The term “racketeering” generally refers to fraudulent and dishonest business practices. Racketeering cases often involve criminal organizations that engage in the practice of creating a problem for the purpose of offering their business product or service as the natural solution to the problem. For example, a company that sells window warranties may regularly break windows on houses in the surrounding neighborhood before going door-to-door to sell the warranty. Racketeering is prosecuted under the federal Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statute, which was enacted by Congress in 1970 to afforded federal law federal enforcement more tools to combat racketeering.
- EMBEZZLEMENT: Most people have experienced or heard about embezzlement on a small scale when an officer in a small organization misappropriates funds for an unauthorized purpose. These instances may be as basic as a PTA president using membership fees to purchase something for his or her personal household. Embezzlement often takes place in accounting departments or by other people who are legally entrusted with authority over money or property for a specific purpose that aligns with the business or organization. In some cases, a person may take possession or transfer funds or property in a manner that is unauthorized but falls short of embezzlement because the individual lacked the intent to commit a crime. This happens in cases in which the accused was simply unaware he or she was acting outside of the scope of his or her authorization.
- CYBERCRIME: As public records and financial transactions have become increasingly digitized, cybercrime has been on the rise. From computer hacking to stealing confidential user data, criminals and law enforcement have found themselves in uncharted territory due to the multiple new ways financial crimes and fraud can occur. Tracking down cybercriminals can pose a challenge as many cybercrimes can be committed anonymously. This adds another dimension to the multiple angles from which law enforcement must investigate these types of offenses. Federal and state governments often rely on the expertise of digital forensic professionals to determine the point of origin of crimes that are committed digitally. Because cyber criminals often leave little or no evidence of their actual identity, the potential for mistaken identity is higher in certain cases. An individual who is suspected of committing theft, fraud, or obtaining unauthorized access to a computer or digital network should seek counsel from an experienced Florida cybercrimes attorney.
- COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT: Many are unaware that violating copyright law is actually a federal offense. Copyrights span the music industry, art, literary publishing, and even software and business intellectual property. A person violates federal copyright infringement law if he or she uses protected work for financial gain or commercial advantage, if the work has value of $1,000 or more, or if the work was being prepared for commercial distribution. In addition to being ordered to pay compensation to the victim of the infringement, people who violate federal copyright law may also be ordered to pay a fine or even sentenced to up to five years in prison if more than 10 copies of the protected work were sold.
- MONEY LAUNDERING: Money laundering is the general process by which people “legitimize” the proceeds of illegal activities. Criminal organizations, drug dealers, and all varieties of fraudsters usually must engage in some form of money laundering to reintroduce the money they have obtained back into the mainstream financial system after they have committed their crimes. Engaging in money laundering obscures digital and paper trails as the money is put through a series of complex transactions involving multiple parties. In some cases, a person may be contacted by law enforcement as a result of being unknowingly caught in the middle of a money laundering transaction.
- IDENTITY THEFT: Identity theft has become very common as the ways of accessing sensitive data have multiplied with expansion of the internet and electronic databases. Because most transactions can be performed remotely, identity thieves are able to use illegally-obtained credit card numbers, dates of birth, and social security numbers to make purchases online and even order new credit cards using stolen information. Due to the deceptive nature of identity theft, an individual may have his or her personal information stolen and linked to an individual or group that is perpetuating the crime. Therefore, individuals who are victims may be mistaken for active participants in the illegal activity.
- FORGERY: In addition to signing someone else’s name on a document without authorization, forgery can take many other forms. Examples include falsifying academic documents, using a false ID to obtain credit, and counterfeiting currency. In obtaining a conviction for forgery, the prosecution is required to prove intent. Therefore, in some cases, a person may have altered a document, but did not intend to use the document for financial gain or to defraud another person or business. A West Palm Beach forgery defense attorney can help individuals who are accused of forgery establish their intent in court and potentially avoid conviction.
The federal government has taken steps to signify its commitment to increase its focus on targeting and prosecuting individuals and groups that are suspected of white collar crimes. People who face federal charges need the experience, time, dedication, and professional relationships only a seasoned white collar crimes defense lawyer can offer. Having the right attorney on the case can help those who are accused protect their professional reputation in addition to safeguarding their constitutional rights. Federal crimes carry higher stakes; therefore, calling a qualified Florida defense lawyer can be critical to the outcome of the entire case.