What is White Collar Crime?

White-collar crime is financially motivated, non-violent crimes committed by professionals and businesses. Individuals indicted are said to abuse their positions or power for personal or corporate gain. If prosecuted, you can face severe punishments. Talk to an experienced white-collar criminal defense lawyer now for peace of mind.

Surprisingly, white-collar crime affects over 35% of U.S. businesses. Moreover, an estimated 75% of employees steal from their employer at least once. Over 50% of those who embezzle funds are managers (Zippia).

Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme is perhaps the most recognized white-collar crime in history. It was undoubtedly the largest, estimated at nearly $65 billion.

White Collar Criminal Charges Are a Federal Offense

White-collar investigations and prosecutions typically represent a federal offense governed by federal laws. They also begin with a lengthy criminal investigation involving a federal agency. Government investigations can include agencies like:

  • Securities and Exchange Commission
  • Internal Revenue Service
  • U.S. Postal Inspection Service
  • Commodity Futures Trading Commission
  • Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network

The investigating agency generally issues subpoenas or obtains warrants to conduct searches of a corporation's office. As such, you might be unaware of the investigation. Upon discovery, you should talk with a white-collar criminal defense lawyer who is comfortable representing clients in federal courts.

A White-Collar Criminal Defense Lawyer May Help Reduce Penalties for Offenses

The penalties for white-collar crime depend on factors like the type of crime committed and the amount of money involved. Local versus federal prosecution also impacts the penalty.

Here is an overview of the punishments for white-collar offenses:

Summary Offense: A fine of up to $250 and up to 90 days in jail

Third-Degree Misdemeanor: A fine between $250 and $5,000 and jail time of up to 90 days

Second-Degree Misdemeanor: A fine between $500 and $5,000 and jail time of up to two years

First-Degree Misdemeanor: A fine between $1,500 and $10,000 and jail time of up to five years

Third-Degree Felony: A fine between $2,500 and $15,000 and up to seven years in jail

Second-Degree Felony: A fine between $5,000 and $25,000 and up to 10 years in jail

A white-collar criminal defense lawyer can help devise a defense strategy. Equally important, they may be able to negotiate a less severe penalty.

Common White Color Criminal Defense Strategies

Federal prosecutors are vigilant with white-collar crime. They have extensive resources available to prosecute the perpetrators. Your white-collar criminal defense lawyer can work with you to establish the best strategy. Typical defenses include:

  • Lack of intent
  • Insufficient evidence
  • Entrapment
  • Duress
  • Expert reliance
  • Permissions

It's worth noting that under federal law, the statute of limitations on white-collar crime cases is generally five years. There is a 10-year time limit for charging wire and bank fraud if it affects a financial institution.

Common Charges Requiring a White-Collar Criminal Defense Lawyer

Although fraud is the most common form of white-collar crime, comprising 63% of all cases in the United States, there are other crimes worth noting below:


Fraud is a broad term that encompasses various deceptive practices intended to result in financial or personal gain. Three common forms of fraud include:

Securities fraud involves falsehoods or omissions about stocks, bonds, or commodities to investors. The infamous Enron scandal is an example of securities fraud.

Credit card fraud occurs when someone uses another person's credit card or card information without permission. They then make unauthorized purchases or access funds.

Mortgage fraud involves false information on mortgage documents. That leads to loans that are larger than what the borrower can afford. "Flipping" properties based on inflated appraisals is a form of this fraud.


Embezzlement involves a person entrusted with funds or property illicitly taking or misusing those assets. A classic example would be a company's accountant siphoning off money into a personal account.

Insider Trading

With insider trading, an individual with non-public information purchases a public company's stock or other securities. Martha Stewart's case in the early 2000s is a famous instance of insider trading. Penalties for illegal insider trading range as high as three times the amount of profit gained or loss avoided from unlawful trading. So, you need to consult with a white-collar criminal defense lawyer.

Identity Theft

Identity theft involves unlawfully obtaining and using another person's data, typically for financial gain. This could include stealing social security numbers, bank account details, or other personal data.

Money Laundering

Money laundering involves making money earned illegally appear legal. An example is creating a series of transactions to disguise funds from drug trafficking.

Tax Evasion

Tax evasion is the illegal act of not paying owed taxes. Generally, it involves not reporting income, reporting expenses not legally allowed, or not paying taxes owed. This is a federal crime requiring support from a white-collar criminal defense lawyer.

Bribery and Corruption

Bribery is when someone gives money or something valuable to someone in power to make them do what they want. Conversely, corruption typically involves public officials abusing their power for personal gain or advantage.


With the rise of the digital age, white-collar crimes have expanded to include various forms of cybercrime. This includes hacking into digital accounts for financial gain, cyber fraud, phishing schemes, etc.

Healthcare Fraud

This includes filing false health insurance claims, inflating medical bills, or conducting unnecessary procedures to generate insurance money.

If you're facing felony charges in Montgomery County, PA, talk to a white-collar criminal defense lawyer at our Norristown law office. We also represent clients in Bucks County and the greater Philadelphia area.

Our Experienced White-Collar Criminal Defense Lawyers Get Results

Any criminal case can significantly affect your life and livelihood, especially when federal courts are involved. Our white-collar criminal defense lawyers have the experience to address your issue with an effective defense strategy. Call now if you face federal prosecution or believe you're under investigation.

We have law offices in Norristown and Doylestown. Talk with a criminal lawyer before things get out of hand.

White Collar Crime Attorneys

John S. Han

John Han | Criminal Defense attorney | Greater Philadelphia Pennsylvania

Criminal defense attorney John S. Han represents clients facing investigation and prosecution by both State and Federal Law Enforcement authorities for felony criminal violations.

Michael A. Luongo

Michael A. Luongo business litigation attorney in High Swartz's doylestown law office

Bucks county Business Litigation attorney Michael A. Luongo also practices personal injury, criminal defense, and in our PA municipal practice.

Shari R. Gelfont Williams

shari gelfont williams at high swartz llp doylestown law office

Bucks County Attorney with 25+ years' experience in litigation with a focus on family law, estate planning, and business disputes.

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