White Collar

WHITE COLLAR DEFENSE: We represent business executives, doctors, lawyers, and other professionals facing federal charges in Houston, throughout Texas and Federal Courts Nationwide.

White Collar Fraud Now a Priority for Federal Prosecutors
A professor of accountancy at Brigham Young University, W. Steve Albrecht, places the economic loss to white collar crime at somewhere near $200 billion a year.

Given the huge financial losses suffered as a result of white collar crimes the Department of Justice has announced that white collar investigations and prosecutions will be treated as one of the top priorities and will be punished severely. The DOJ has also indicated a policy of whistle blowers and corporate snitches to aid in its policy.

White Collar Clients are Unique
White collar criminal suspects are normally professionals, without experience dealing with law enforcement agents or the federal criminal courts. These individuals often feel overwhelmed when confronted by investigators because, at a moment’s notice, their livelihood, reputation, and freedom are at stake.

Interviewing with Federal Agents without a Lawyer Big Mistake
In order to appear cooperative, many professionals will submit to interviews with FBI agents or other federal criminal investigators without a lawyer.

This significant mistake could dramatically affect your ability to defend yourself. Criminal suspects often have nothing to gain and everything to lose by talking to federal agents. Even making false statements in response to embarrassing questions can result in federal felony charges of making false statements to federal agents.

Do Not Talk to FBI Agents or Federal Criminal Investigators without a Lawyer
Federal agents are trained in interviews tactics that encourage individuals to cooperate and talk. Do not be fooled by statements like: “If you haven’t done anything wrong you don’t need a lawyer,” “I am just trying to close this investigation,” “If you have nothing to hide you don’t need a lawyer,” or any other psychological ploy to get a suspect talking.

White Collar Cases are Complex
White collar crime trials are complex. An ordinary criminal trial may take only a day or two to complete and involve testimony from just a few witnesses. In white collar crime prosecutions, however, the government makes its case as difficult as possible, overwhelming the jury with a barrage of physical exhibits, complicated charts, electronic evidence such as emails, volumes of financial records, and dozens of witnesses, including professional experts who make a living testifying for government prosecutors.

This prosecutorial strategy is often designed to confuse and mislead the jury. They wear juries down with weeks of hard-to-understand testimony and difficult-to-comprehend financial records. Government prosecutors want the jury to presume guilt based on the sheer weight and volume of mostly irrelevant evidence, creating a “smell” of wrongdoing. But, this is the very flaw in the government’s case that a skilled defense attorney can spot and use to his advantage.

Mistakes are Not Criminal
Many white collar cases are the result of accounting errors, billing mistakes or business deals gone bad. Just because an investor, business, or even the government itself lost money does not necessarily mean criminal intent. White collar prosecutions that are typically tenuous, circumstantial, or based on hearsay statements of those who have an ax to grind or stand to benefit from the prosecution.

FBI Re-Focuses on White Collar Crime
Still, the Financial Crimes Section of the FBI now has a green light to focus its financial crimes investigations on corporate fraud, securities and commodities fraud, mass marketing fraud, health care fraud, mortgage fraud, financial institution fraud, mail and wire fraud, and money laundering. All of the white collar crimes carry harsh penalties.

For example, a conviction for mail or wire fraud can result in a sentence of up to 20 years can be imposed in addition to hefty fines. An individual can be fined up to $250,000 while an organization can be fined up to $350,000. Punishment is enhanced if the victim is a financial institution or if the fraud is committed in relation to a natural disaster. In either case, the defendant can be sentenced to a term of not more than 30 years, and face a fine up to $1 million. A defendant may also receive probation, or have a term of supervised release tacked on to his prison sentence. Special assessment, restitution, and forfeiture orders are routine in the sentencing scheme.

Money Laundering
Another example of renewed focus in white collar investigations and prosecutions is money laundering cases.

There are two federal money laundering statutes: 18 U.S.C. §§ 1956 and 1957.

Of the two, Section 1956 is the one most often used to prosecute money laundering offenses. The statute prohibits four kinds of money laundering. Each can occur only in connection with what the statute defines as “specified unlawful activities” (SUA).

Section 1957 prohibits depositing or spending more than $10,000 of the proceeds from Section 1956 SUA. In short, money laundering has been defined as the act of transferring illegally obtained money through people or accounts so that its original source cannot be traced.

Section 1956 carries a penalty of not more than 20 years while Section 1957 carries a penalty of not more than 10 years. Violations of these two statutes may implicate other federal statutes, such as RICO which involves additional 20-year felonies. Violations of these two statutes may also involve conspiracies to commit separate federal offenses punishable by imprisonment of not more than five years.

Cybercrimes, Computer Crimes
Beyond the traditional white collar crimes, the FBI is also instrumental in investigating what it calls “high tech crimes” which include cyber-based terrorism, espionage, computer intrusions, and cyber fraud.

Historically, white collar crimes were committed through paperwork. Today, they are committed with a computer involving the Internet. This has spawned what is generally referred to as “cybercrimes” – a criminal activity associated with information technology’s infrastructure, including illegal access (unauthorized access), illegal data interception or interference (unauthorized damaging, deletion, deterioration, alteration or suppression of computer data), systems interference (interfering with the functioning of a computer system), misuse of devices, forgery (ID theft), and electronic fraud.

In brief, cybercrimes involve activity in which a computer, network or the internet is the source, tool, target, or place of a crime – including activity such as fraud, hacking, copyright infringement, child pornography and child grooming.

Cybercrime Typically Federal
White collar and cybercrime are usually indicated and prosecuted at the Federal level because of the interstate nature of these offenses. Possible penalties for these offenses can include incarceration for a significant number of years to life imprisonment, generally determined the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines. There are also fines for restitution, court costs, and damages suffered by the victims of these offenses.

In addition to the criminal sections, a defendant convicted of these crimes can face potential civil litigation from private businesses or corporate entities trying to recover their economic loss.

Using Experts to Fight the Allegations
The law is forever changing with respect to white collar and cybercrimes. These kinds of offenses frequently require criminal defense attorneys to use “forensic experts” and experienced investigators to fight the charges. Forensic experts are able to examine a defendant’s computer hard drive, and after careful analysis, can offer possible defenses. Investigators, including skilled CPAs, are able to research the volumes of paperwork and documents associated with these cases to determine the validity of what the Government is charging.

Corruption and Bribery
Corruption charges against state or local officials, on the other hand, often involve videotaped surveillance of charged criminal transactions, electronic intercepts, GPS tracking, cellphone pinging, volumes of incriminating documents, banking statements, and eyewitness testimony. Federal prosecutors will often dump huge amounts of discovery documents and information upon defense attorney in corruption cases to force them into cumbersome review, investigations, and the hiring of skilled experts to examine the maze of documentary evidence.

Common White Collar Criminal Charges
The most common white collar crimes are:
• Antitrust violations
• Bank fraud
• Bankruptcy fraud
• Bribery
• Cellular phone fraud
• Computer/Internet fraud
• Corporate fraud
• Counterfeiting
• Credit card fraud
• Economic espionage
• Environmental law violations
• Embezzlement
• Export controls violations
• Financial institutions fraud
• False Claim Act violations
• Government fraud
• Health care fraud
• Identity theft fraud
• Insider trading
• Insurance fraud
• Investment schemes
• Kickbacks
• Mail fraud
• Market manipulation fraud
• Mass marketing fraud
• Money laundering
• Mortgage fraud
• Office of Foreign Assets and Control (OFAC) violations
• Phone and telemarketing fraud
• Piracy/intellectual property theft
• Public corruption
• Racketeering
• Securities and commodities fraud
• Social security fraud
• Tax evasion
• Trade secret theft
• S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) violations

The Importance of Skilled White Collar Lawyer
Regardless of whether you are facing serious white collar or cybercrimes charges in federal or state court, the consequences of a conviction can impact the rest of your life.

If you hope to avoid incarceration, heavy fines, and a lasting stain on your permanent record, you will need an aggressive, intelligent and innovative defense. The right attorney can be the difference between suffering a lengthy period of incarceration or avoiding criminal charges altogether. You need a lawyer who understands the intricacies of white collar and cybercrime criminal defense, and who has extensive experience successfully representing clients facing these kinds of charges.

Why Am I being investigated by the Feds?
Because white-collar crimes can be so multi-layered and difficult to navigate, it is common for individuals to feel overwhelmed by the allegations. It is our goal to take this burden off the individual and begin a proper investigation and defensive strategy so that you can get back to business and do what you do best.