White Collar Crimes in Essex County cover a wide range of financially motivated nonviolent offenses committed by corporate or government officials or an individual. Some examples of white-collar crimes include mortgage fraud, insurance fraud, corporate fraud, mail and wire fraud, embezzlement, tax fraud, credit card fraud, and money laundering. These crimes are termed White Collar because the offenders usually act within a corporate setting and unlike blue-collar crimes, they do not involve acts of violence or immediate gratification associated with street crimes. In 2020, Jason Zheng was convicted in Massachusetts for executing about 24 life insurance policies in his late brother’s name between 2016 and 2018. Similarly, two Massachusetts men were arrested in connection with a scheme to defraud the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by inflating tax refunds and diverting a portion of those refunds to accounts they and their co-conspirators operated.
According to the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS), Essex County recorded a total of 62 wire frauds, 34 embezzlement cases, 418 credit card frauds, and 1 case of welfare fraud in 2019. When compared to the numbers of the previous year, incidences of wire fraud increased by 51% while embezzlement cases dropped by 33%, credit card fraud by 22%, and welfare fraud by 50%.
The consequences of a conviction for white-collar crimes in Essex County can be severe. They may include hefty fines, lengthy incarceration, and loss of professional credibility, forfeiture of properties, and community service. Although these punishments may be as severe as those attached to violent crimes, reports suggest that white-collar offenders are usually treated differently in practice. For example, research conducted by the University of Iowa shows that the majority of federal judges sentence below the fraud guideline for white-collar crime convictions. Sentences for a white-collar crime may include
Mortgage fraud (General Law Part IV, Title 1, Chapter 266 Section 35A)
Healthcare fraud (18 USC 1347)
Credit card fraud
Wire fraud (18 USC 1343)
Punishments may depend on the value of the property, the corporate position of the offender, or the situation of the victim.
For a property worth less than $250:
Property worth over $250 or firearms:
Theft of trade secrets is punishable by a fine of up to 5 years in prison or a fine of $25,000 and up to 2 years in jail.
Tax evasion is punishable by up to 5 years in prison, or a maximum fine of $100,000 for natural persons and $500,000 for corporations, or both the fine and imprisonment. In addition to criminal punishments, the offender will also owe interests.
Money laundering (General law Chapter 267A, Section 2)
The job of a white-collar crime lawyer begins as soon as the clients suspect they are being investigated for a white-collar crime. At this initial stage, the lawyer ensures that the client does not provide self-incriminating evidence to government investigators. A white-collar crime lawyer may also thoroughly investigate a suspect’s case, obtain and analyze evidence, and develop defense strategies to either get the case dismissed or reduce potential penalties significantly. Some defense strategies adopted by lawyers in white-collar crime cases include
Lack of Intent: Establishing a white-collar charge may require the prosecutor to prove the criminal intent of the suspect. A defendant can escape conviction by showing that the culpable act was an honest mistake or unintentional act.
Entrapment: This is one of the most common defenses to white-collar crimes in Essex County, Massachusetts. When law enforcement suspects the commission of a crime, they conduct a sting operation to catch the suspect in a compromising position. When this is the case, the defendant can avoid conviction by proving that the law enforcement or informants induced the crime through their actions. Typically, the defense attorney would attempt to argue that a normally law-abiding person would have been misled to commit the crime under such circumstances.
Non-Fraudulent Statements: Where a suspect is accused of providing fraudulent information, they may raise a defense that the perceived victim acted unreasonably simply based on an opinion expressed by the defendant. The suspect might have uttered a non-fraudulent statement that the perceived victim mistook for fraud because it did not benefit them.
Incapacity. If the defense can show that the defendant had no mental or physical capacity to commit the alleged offense, the prosecution would have difficulty convincing the court to convict.
Intoxication: In some instances, evidence of intoxication at the time of the alleged crime may establish that the defendant was not in complete control of their actions. Offenders who can prove that they were intoxicated when the culpable act occurred may avoid conviction or substantially decrease their sentence.
Good faith means that the person accused had an honest belief that their actions were lawful. The defense party may have to compare the alleged actions to accepted industry standards or show that the suspect acted promptly to correct a mistake.
Statute of limitations: Statutes of limitation limits the time range of cases that may be brought before a court. If the alleged crime was perpetrated years ago and the limitation period has run out, the suspect cannot be brought to trial based on such an incident. For example, embezzlement cases can no longer be tried after six years from the day the alleged offense was committed.
Coercion: If the accused was forced by another to carry out the culpable act, it may be used to prove the absence of intent.
Plea Agreements: The defense may choose to enter a plea bargain when the evidence supporting the charge is overwhelming. In this arrangement, the defendant agrees to plead guilty in exchange for a lighter sentence.
Enacted in 1977, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) is a United States legislation that prohibits the bribery of foreign officials by firms or individuals. The FCPA’s prohibition is not limited to the actual payment of bribes alone. The authorization, offer, or promise to pay such bribes is also prohibited. The FCPA also applies to publicly traded companies, including their officers, directors, employees, stockholders, and agents. Agents can be third-party agents, consultants, distributors, joint-venture partners, or others. The law requires companies with securities listed in the United States to maintain accurate records and have an internal control mechanism, to ensure that transactions are carried out following the management’s authorization.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Department of Justice both enforce the FCPA. The SEC has the authority to initiate civil enforcement actions against defaulting organizations and their officers. Defaulters may be required to forfeit their profit from corrupt practices and pay prejudgment interest and civil penalties.
Interested residents can find white-collar crime lawyers in Essex County through several means, including personal referral, organized referral, and online search.
Personal Referral: Family, friends, colleagues may recommend a lawyer based on their experience. A local general practice lawyer may also refer a person to an attorney that specializes in white-collar crimes. When in need of legal advice for a white-collar criminal offense, it is important to conduct some due diligence, assess the attorney’s credentials and case history.
Organized/Institutional Referral: The Essex County Bar Association offers a lawyer referral service to assist individuals in finding the right attorney for their legal issues. The referral service is free, and the Association allows reduced attorney fees for indigent persons with proof of household earning. To utilize the referral program together with a free 30 minutes consultation, the potential client may fill out the Online Lawyer Referral Form or contact the Association at:
Essex County Bar Association
45 Congress Street
Salem, MA 01970
Phone: (978) 741-7888
Fax: (978) 741-1348
Online Research: Many crime lawyers provide online pages containing their services and credentials. A simple online search will provide an array of options, and interested parties may submit their contact information on the available contact form so the lawyers can contact them.
A person facing white-collar criminal charges should consider the following factors when choosing their attorney.
Availability: The lawyer must be easily accessible and available because government investigations for white-collar crimes are usually gradual and might have been going on long before the suspect was aware. Hence, it is best to select an attorney available to provide instant guidance to safeguard their clients from self-incrimination during the investigation.
Competence: Most white-collar crimes are prosecuted at the federal level. As a result, the attorney of choice must be familiar with the federal laws, court procedure, and applicable rules.
Trial Experience: Hiring an experienced trial lawyer with a history of defending white-collar crime offenders will be an asset to the defendant’s case.
White-collar crime attorneys represent businesses, individuals, and governments. Typically, a client can expect to pay a white-collar crime attorney over $400 per hour or a flat rate that may range from $2,000 to $4,000. However, the exact cost varies depending on factors like