White Collar Crimes & Investigations
What Is a White Collar Crime?
White collar crime commonly refers to business or government professionals accused of fraud. Some examples of these allegations can be falsifying financial information, kickbacks, tax violations, bribery, Ponzi schemes, cyber crime, money laundering, identity theft, and forgery.
A white collar investigation can be conducted at both the State and Federal level and will often times overlap. Many local law enforcement agencies have specialized investigators that handle white collar cases. The federal government will often conduct investigations through the FBI, IRS, DEA, and ATF. Federal agents may work in conjunction with local law enforcement groups in conducting dual investigations.
Money laundering is the process by which one conceals/disguises money from an illegal source in order to make it appear legitimate. The federal government criminalizes money laundering in two ways. First, the failure to report or the failure to report accurately certain transactions to the government can be criminalized. An example of this would include failing to notify the government of cash transactions over $10,000.00. The second way in which the government can target someone for money laundering is to penalize the actual money laundering process. It is illegal to collect the proceeds from criminal activity. Drug trafficking or organized crime would be an example of this conduct.
Money laundering charges aren’t just a federal crime. Texas has a statute penalizing money laundering which deals with proceeds from criminal activity. The conduct is a felony offense and depending on the monetary value of the proceeds one could spend up to life in prison if convicted.
Mail and Wire Fraud
Mail and wire fraud traditionally dealt with property that was obtained by false pretenses. However, mail and wire fraud penalties are increasingly being used to target commercial bribery and political corruption. The crux of the offense centers around the use of mail, wire, radio or television communications for the purpose of executing a fraudulent scheme. There is no requirement that the fraud be successful! The attempt to defraud by mail or wire communications is what constitutes the crime. A more modern example of mail/wire fraud would be when a person sends out an email asking for donations to a fictitious charity in order to keep the proceeds for himself.
The misrepresentations in mail and wire fraud must be material and not mere “puffing.” The misrepresentation must also go to the value of the bargain or the quality, adequacy or price of the goods. An allegation of mail or wire fraud can also be prosecuted at the local or state level under the more generic fraud statutes.
Obstruction of Justice
Obstruction of justice crimes on the federal level were originally intended to protect witnesses, jurors, and judges from retaliation or bribes. However, obstruction of justice charges have expanded to include persons that merely obstruct or impede a criminal proceeding. People have been targeted for things like obtaining grand jury testimony or giving a client pills to induce vomiting during court. Obstruction of justice on the federal level usually applies to proceedings at or beyond the grand jury level and not merely the investigative stage.
In State court, the obstruction of justice statutes pertain to a much broader range of criminal activity. This would include giving a fake name to the police, resisting arrest, jumping bond, possessing contraband in the jail, illegally practicing law and tampering with witnesses, etc. Unlike the federal statute, the crime under Texas law can begin before the grand jury proceedings start and even as early as a traffic stop.