White-collar crimes are offenses conducted in a non-violent way for financial gain. Most people commit white-collar crimes to obtain property, money, commercial or personal advantages, and avoid losing the existing property. In California, the crimes cover a wide range of offenses, including money laundering, fraud, bribery, forgery, embezzlement, identity theft, and extortion.
The crimes attract severe penalties. But, the penalties vary from crime to crime and also depend on your past criminal history. So you want to work with a defense attorney as soon as possible. At Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, our attorneys are eager to work with you. We will listen to your case, analyze it and build a solid defense to challenge the prosecution team. Therefore, if you are in or around Riverside, CA, and you want to find a defense attorney, don’t hesitate to call us.
The Legal Meaning of White Collar Crimes in California
A white-collar crime involves non-violent illegal action involving dishonesty, concealment, or deceit in money-making matters. The crimes include finances, fewer physical violations and are conducted by professionals driven by financial achievement. They are considered “white-collar” since government employees or professionals conduct them.
The punishments for the crime vary depending on the facts surrounding the crime and your criminal record. The penalties include heavy fines, restitution fees, and incarceration. Under the California laws, the courts consider several crimes as a misdemeanor while others are considered a felony and charged by either the state or federal court.
Money laundering involves someone taking money obtained from unlawful sources then tries to make it appear as if it was acquired from legal sources. The crime is punished under two laws. The laws include California penal code 186.10PC, which deals with money obtained from illegal sources, and HSC 11370 HS, which considers money obtained from drug offenses.
Example. A lady steals $200,000 from a private industry where she works as a manager. She knows any changes in her financial outlook will draw suspicions. So, she breaks the money into small amounts and deposits them into several bank accounts, so she disguises the initial origin of the money. If the banks operate in or are based in California, she will face money laundering charges under PC 186.10.
Punishment for Money Laundering
In California, the crime is a wobbler under both PC 186.10 and HS 11370.9. The crime may be charged as a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the nature of the case and your criminal record. The potential penalties for the misdemeanor offense are a fine not exceeding $1,000 and a year imprisonment. A felony money laundering charge will carry a penalty of up to 4 years’ imprisonment, a fine of twice the laundered amount, and a fine not exceeding $250,000.
An arrest for a money laundering crime doesn’t necessarily mean you will face conviction for the crime. The prosecution team will have to prove you committed the crime. However, the law allows you to fight the charges through your defense attorney. You may defend yourself by arguing you acted so due to police entrapment, you may also argue you had no intent to engage in the crime, or even you may challenge the prosecutors' evidence.
What the Federal Law Say About Money Laundering
The law also considers money laundering as a federal crime. So, it means you may be charged under a federal court. Federal law usually criminalizes money laundering in two types:
It disallows the behaviors of conducting financial activities that are illegal to promote the illegal activities or cover the unlawful source of the laundered money. The offense attracts federal imprisonment for around 20 years of a fine not exceeding $500,000 or even paying back twice the laundered money. Also, you may face both hectic fines and federal prison terms.
The federal laws also penalize anyone attempting or engaging in a financial activity of $10,000 and above using money obtained criminally. The penalties attract a federal prison term of 10 years. If you face a money laundering charge in California, ensure you work closely with a defense attorney to better the case.
Embezzlement – Penal Code 503
Embezzlement involves a person who unlawfully takes property entrusted to them by another person. The prosecutor will have to prove the elements of the crime for you to face conviction. The elements include:
- A property owner had entrusted the property to the defendant.
- The owner entrusted the defendant since they trusted them.
- The defendant used or converted the property for their benefit.
- When the defendant acted this way, they wanted to rob the property owner.
Example. A company employee is trusted to receive the company’s earnings and deposit them in a nearby bank at the end of the day. The employee then develops a behavior of taking small portions of the money each day. The employee aims at paying back the full amount when they earn more money. Then the employee may face embezzlement charges in California since they illegally keep the money entrusted.
Possible Penalties for Embezzlement
An embezzlement crime may be considered grand theft or petty theft based on the value of the alleged property. For example, if you embezzled a property worth $950 and below, you may face a misdemeanor charge with six months’ jail. Alternatively, if the property in question is valued at $950 and above, the court will consider the offense as a wobbler. Then it will be considered a felony or misdemeanor and will attract a three years’ sentence.
If the property has a value of $65,000, you will face an extra year of imprisonment in any given prison jail. Lastly, if the alleged property has a value of $3,200,000, you may face additional four years on your imprisonment.
An embezzlement charge isn’t the end of your life. You may fight the charges with the help of a competent defense attorney. For example, if you did not take the property in question intentionally, the court will drop the case. Remember to fight the charges successfully; you want to work with a competent attorney. The attorney will help you challenge the evidence provided by the prosecution team. Also, the attorney will help you gather enough evidence to support you did not intend to deprive the alleged property.
Bribery is a crime involving an attempt to influence a public officer to favor you in their line of duty utilizing money or gifts. The bribery laws in California are extensive and vary depending on the nature of your case. The following are varied forms of bribery in California:
- Bribery involving a court witness.
- Commercial bribery.
- Bribery case involving a judicial jury and judge.
- Bribery involving public employees and ministers.
- Bribery involving supervisors and public companies.
In California, bribery laws punish both the recipient of the bribery and the officer issuing the bribes. Therefore, it doesn’t matter whether you received the bribe. You only need to have met the elements of the crime.
Potential Penalties of a Bribery
In California, the main penalty for the crime is confinement in a county or state facility. Mostly, bribery is considered a felony case that carries up to four years of imprisonment. Also, the court may require you to pay a restitution fee of up to $10,000 if you never accepted the bribe. Alternatively, the court may require you to pay the bribe amount or $2000 (the higher amount). If the bribed amount was higher, the court might require you to pay twice the amount or even $10,000.
Fighting Bribery Charges
Remember, before you face a bribery conviction, the prosecution team must prove you had an intent to engage in the crime. If the prosecutor cannot prove the elements of the crime, you will not face conviction for bribery. With the legal help from your attorney, you may argue you acted due to police entrapment; you had no intent to commit the crime. Also, you may argue that you did know the other person was giving a bribe. Again you may demonstrate before the law court that you acted due to intoxications.
Extortion - Penal Code 518
You commit extortion by forcing or threatening another person to provide property or money. Extortion also involves compiling a public official to perform or neglect an official duty. An example of extortion is when you threaten to expose an extramarital relationship of your employee unless you are paid money. Under California PC 518, extortion is charged as a criminal offense that can cost you many years behind bars.
Elements of Extortion
To face conviction for extortion in California, the prosecutor should prove the listed elements.
- You threatened to:
- Unlawfully injure the victim or his/her property.
- Accuse the victim or his/her family members of committing an offense.
- Expose a secret that concerned the victim.
What is a secret?
- A fact that is not known to the general public or to someone who may be interested in knowing
- A fact that may harm the victim's reputation or put them in a scandal or crime.
- As a result of the use of force, the victim accepted your demands and paid you property or money. Since the victim may accept unwillingly, the threat should have a factor that forced the victim to offer their consent.
- When making the threat, you intended to use force to obtain the victim's consent, money, or property.
- Due to the threat, the victim accepted your demands.
Extortion is a felony crime in California. When charged with extortion, penalties include:
- Fine up to 1$10000
- Imprisonment in jail up to 4 years.
Depending on circumstances surrounding your case, the judge may grant you formal probation instead of facing imprisonment.
Legal Defense for Extortion
There are possible legal defenses we may use in your legal defense. They include:
- You did not use force or threaten the victim
- You faced a false accusation
- When the alleged victim did not carry out the activities, you consented to him/her to do so.
Identity Theft- PC 530.5
In California, the crime is outlined in PC 530.5. Under the law, it’s illegal to obtain another person’s identifying details and use them for unlawful activities without their consent. However, the prosecution team will have the duty to prove you used another person’s identifying details. Also, the prosecutor must show you obtained the details with the intent of engaging in illegal activities. Remember, the prosecutor must also show you had no other person's consent to use their information.
The court may consider the crime of identity theft as either a felony or misdemeanor based on the facts surrounding the case. If the case is a misdemeanor one, you will face jail time for at least one year in a county facility. The court may consider you to pay a fine of up to $5,000. Alternatively, if you face a felony conviction, you will remain behind bars for a period between 16 months and three years. You may also risk paying a heavy fine not exceeding $10,000.
Sometimes identity theft may be considered a federal offense. So, this means you may face a federal conviction alongside your state’s imposed penalties. Under the federal conviction, you will face severe penalties than in the state's conviction. One violates federal laws by knowingly displaying another person’s identity cards without their knowledge. Also, you violate federal laws when you attempt to transfer stolen ID cards to other people. Note if you own, traffic, or produce any machine used purposely to produce fake Identification information, you will have violated federal law.
The penalties for a federal law violation will include 15-year imprisonment in federal prison. You may also pay a fine of up to $250,000. Sometimes you may be forced to face severe fines and remain in jail for extensive periods based on the severity of the case. For example, if you engage in the crime of identity theft while carrying out drug trafficking, you may remain in federal prison for up to 20 years. Also, you will face a similar penalty if you conduct the crime while engaging in violence. Lastly, if you engage in identity theft while committing international or domestic terrorism, you will serve federal imprisonment for 30 years.
Forgery - Penal Code 470
In California, one commits forgery by signing another person's name, using someone's handwriting, or faking an official seal intending to commit fraud. The crime also involves changing legal documents to connect to financial matters. Examples of legal documents include money, will, property, title deeds, or creating new money.
Example. When a person writes a prescription containing a forged signature from a real doctor.
In California, forgery is a wobbler offense meaning it can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor. The charges depend on the type of forged item and the value of money or property stolen. You face charges for felony forgery when the value of forgery is more than $950. When the value of forgery is less than $950, and the document is a check or money order, then you face charges with a misdemeanor.
The prosecution must prove the following before the court for you to face conviction for forgery.
You committed forgery by:
- Creating false document
- Altering an existing document
- Using unauthorized document
- You committed the crime intending to defraud.
Penalties for Forgery
The penalties for forgery depend on whether the crime is charged as a felony or a misdemeanor. When charged with misdemeanor forgery, you pay fines up to $1000 and imprisonment for one year in jail.
When charged with a forgery felony, the punishment includes one to 3yesrs imprisonment, fines up to $10000, and felony probation. You may also pay a restitution fee to compensate the victim for lost money or property.
Legal Defenses for Forgery
- You didn't intend to defraud
- It is not your handwriting
- The document does not carry any legal value.
A fraud crime occurs when you engage in an activity that results in unfair or undeserved benefits to another person. Two drives facilitate the crimes; to benefit financially or to skip a criminal responsibility. The state has numerous types of fraud laws which touch various institutions.
Types of Fraud Crimes
California law outlines a wide range of fraud crimes. Also, the different types of fraud crimes carry different penalties. The following are the common fraud crimes in the state:
Most financial frauds aim at achieving unjustified financial gains. One of the kinds of financial fraud includes check fraud. In California, you face a check fraud conviction when you possess, use, or make a check intending to defraud the payee. One reveals an aim of committing fraud when they present a check to be genuine. The check fraud offenses are distinct from bad check laws that involve passing or attempting to pass a check when they are aware it’s fake.
The second financial fraud crime is Credit card fraud. It involves revolving around credit and debit cards or information linked to those cards. One commits the offense when they attempt to use someone else’s card without their consent. Also, you may engage in the crime when you use a credit or debit card when you know it's invalid or expired. Next, selling counterfeit credit and debit cards is also considered credit card fraud.
The third form of financial fraud is securities fraud. It’s also known as stock or investment fraud. You face the charge for the crime when you encourage investors to make decisions relying on false and unreliable information. Also, if you counterfeit or alter a company’s financial information or give the company the wrong value to mislead an investor, you face charges for the crime. The players who engage in security fraud are accountants, promoters, stock traders, or traders.
The last form of financial fraud is mortgage and real estate fraud. The fraud involves making intentional false representations of the estate transaction. Usually, mortgage and real estate forms are rent skimming, foreclosure frauds, phantom schemes, and unlawful property flipping.
Insurance frauds occur in various forms. The various types of crime attract different punishments and penalties. One of the potential types of insurance fraud is automobile fraud crimes. The frauds involve an attempt to receive cash from an insurance firm using fraudulent means. Staging an accident that never occurred is also considered automobile insurance. Again, reporting your car as stolen to obtain the compensation you don’t qualify for is insurance fraud.
Another common insurance fraud involves health insurance. Several players may engage in healthcare frauds like doctors, pharmacists, equipment suppliers, and other employees. You may commit healthcare fraud in several ways, like billing medical services that the hospital never offered, prescribing certain medicines to obtain kickbacks, and double-billing services provided to patients.
Unemployment fraud is another form of insurance fraud. The fraud involves an attempt to deny, reduce or increase unemployment insurance aids. You qualify for this crime when you attempt to seek benefits from numerous states. Also, presenting wrong information about your employment termination is also committing fraud. Lastly, you may face charges when providing wrong information about your wages to skip contributions to unemployment insurance plans.
Welfare frauds. They involve attempting to obtain or increase warfare benefits you don’t deserve. The frauds may be considered internal when they involve government employees attempting to distribute unlawful benefits from an agency.
Workers' compensation fraud is the last insurance fraud in the state. It’s a method of fraud faced by the state worker’s compensation insurance. Most people fake or exaggerate the extent of their injuries to obtain compensation.
Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
White-collar crime charges attract heavy fines, job loss, extended jail terms, among other severe penalties. That’s why you want to work with a criminal defense attorney. The attorney will come up with a strong defense strategy for a better outcome of the case. A competent attorney will carry out diligent investigations and build a strong defense.
At Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, our attorneys have helped countless people facing white-collar crime charges achieve the best outcome of their case. If you face a white-collar crime charge in Riverside, CA, call our defense attorneys at 951-946-6366, and set a free case consultation and evaluation.