White collar crimes in Pennsylvania: Charges, penalties and defenses

White collar crimes are generally non violent, but can come with severe penalties including large monetary fines and imprisonment.

White collar crime is a legal term used to describe a variety of crimes. Generally, these crimes involve using illegal means to make money. They are often not violent and aside from financial damages no injuries result. Even though physical injuries are generally not tied to these crimes, the penalties can be harsh. In some cases, the penalties could be even more severe than those associated with convictions for assault, sex crimes and even murder.

Two common forms include fraud and embezzlement.

Fraud

Fraud occurs whenever someone uses deceit for financial gain. There are many subsets of this crime. Examples include:

  • Securities fraud. This crime involves misinformation regarding investment decisions. Insider trading falls within this category.
  • Mortgage fraud. An omission of information, misstatement or false information provided on a loan for a mortgage can result in mortgage fraud charges. This crime can occur on a small scale, involving a single homeowner falsifying information, or on a very large scale with a foreclosure rescue scam.
  • Insurance fraud. Essentially, state law defines insurance fraud as filing false or misleading information in an attempt to cash an insurance policy. In Pennsylvania, a conviction can lead to a monetary penalty of up to $5,000 for a first offense and $10,000 for a second.

Penalties for conviction of these crimes vary, but can include large monetary fines and potential imprisonment.

Embezzlement

Embezzlement is defined as taking money from another when the person accused of the crime owes the property owner a duty. In Pennsylvania, this crime is charged as a form of theft. Conviction requires the proof that the accused had a fiduciary duty to the owner of the property and used this duty to steal the property. The severity of penalty often hinges on the value of the property stolen. If the value is over $2,000, it is a third degree felony; if over $100,000, a second degree felony; and if over $500,000, a first degree felony. A conviction for a third degree felony can carry a prison sentence of up to seven years.

White collar crimes: Legal counsel can help

Due to the severe penalties associated with these crimes, it is wise for individuals and businesses charged with a white collar crime to take the charges seriously. Defenses are available that can lead to a reduction or dismissal of charges. These defenses often rely on intent and can require various pieces of evidence to establish that the accused lacked the necessary intent required for a white collar crime conviction. Contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer to discuss your options and better ensure a more positive outcome.

Keywords: criminal defense white collar crimes