White Collar Crime

By Scuro, Joseph, Jr. | Law & Order, May 2003 | Go to article overview

White Collar Crime


Scuro, Joseph, Jr., Law & Order


Crimes committed in this country place specific emphasis on violent crimes against persons, such as armed robbery, assault, rape and various degrees of homicide. The traditional focus for studies by criminologists and law enforcement research units tends to be on similarly violent crimes against property, such as motor vehicle theft, arson, burglary and other comparable property offenses.

Non-violent activity of a criminal nature might not be considered a serious concern and problem to society and other state, federal or local interests.

White collar and economic crimes often do not receive the attention and enforcement efforts required to deter and prevent them simply because there is no tangible or perceived victim of a violent act meriting law enforcement resources, efforts and concentration in these areas. However, a person in a three-piece suit with a pencil, pad and briefcase can steal more money than a street thug with a pistol or other deadly weapon.

Economic or white collar crimes do not involve violent acts associated with traditional criminal activity, but do result in victims who often are robbed of life savings, pension benefits and other assets accumulated through decades of hard work, saving and planning for the future. White collar criminals often steal from their victims their future hopes and dreams by betraying a trust earned and then utilized for selfish and illegal personal gains. The victims of economic crimes are the unseen federal and state taxpayers who often find taxpayer dollars looted by this type of criminal activity.

Among the most common white collar crimes are securities fraud, computer crime, crimes against consumers, crimes involving the banking, insurance and pension fund industries, medical fraud, corruption of public officials, environmental crimes, unsafe products and media-induced crimes against consumers.

The effects of these criminal activities often undermine public confidence, violate fiduciary trust and duties, destroy the trust of investors in the economy, and result in financial losses reaching billions of dollars in nature.

Consumer fraud commonly results from false advertising, bait and switch tactics, price fixing, celebrity endorsements and knockoff ripoffs. Corruption by public officials can result from bribery, payroll fraud and abuse of power for personal gains.

Environmental crimes often result from violation of state and federal regulations: pollution of water and air, and the disposal, transportation, and unsafe storage of toxic wastes and similar materials.

Insider trading stock manipulation, and pump and dump schemes (where interest is artificially stimulated in a stock to raise its market value then sold for considerable profit by those who are involved in the increased stock value) are but a few of the criminal acts that comprise what is referred to as securities fraud.

White collar crimes and fraud dealing with employee and pension funds commonly occur when trusted officers charged with the protection of these funds use them for personal gain, divert pension funds for personal use, or maintain false receipts and records to embezzle employee benefit and pension fund monies for illegitimate and personal purposes.

Fraudulent criminal activity dealing with banking and financial institutions can occur when false records are maintained by the officials of those institutions, illegally obtained funds are deposited and laundered to appear legitimate in a bank or other financial institution, or false statements are made in support of a loan or other application seeking funds.

Although there are numerous state jurisdictions with specific penal code provisions that are applicable in the investigation and prosecution of economic and white collar crimes, they are mostly prosecuted federally by the U.S. Department of justice and a local United States Attorney's Office.

Federal enforcement and criminal statutes dealing with white collar and economic criminal activity have been enacted to provide a broader federal jurisdiction in these areas. …

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