What is White Collar Crime?

Posted by Jarrett P. AmbeauFeb 07, 20230 Comments

The term "white collar crime" refers to non-violent, financial crimes committed by individuals, businesses and government professionals. Sociologist Edwin Sutherland coined the term in 1939 and defined white collar crime as "a crime committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of their occupation."

Many offenses fall under the umbrella of “white collar crimes.” Some of these include:

  • Tax fraud
  • Healthcare fraud
  • Corporate crimes
  • Mail fraud
  • Money laundering
  • Embezzlement
  • Identity theft
  • Racketeering
  • Ponzi schemes
  • Copyright infringement
  • Bribery
  • Blackmail
  • Insider trading
  • Securities fraud
  • Cybercrimes

In this article, we cover the most common types of white collar crime.

Penalties for White Collar Crime

The penalties for white-collar crimes vary greatly, depending on various factors. If you are convicted of a white collar crime, you may face substantial fines, a lengthy prison sentence, house arrest, probation, and other consequences ordered by the court like community service. Perhaps equally as serious, you will likely also face irreparable damage to your reputation and career.

At The Ambeau Law Firm, we understand the serious nature of white collar charges. Our Baton Rouge white collar crime attorneys work tirelessly to build a solid defense behalf of clients accused of theft, forgery, fraud and other white collar crimes. When you work with us, you work directly with your attorney throughout each stage of the process.

If you have been charged with a crime, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. The Ambeau Law Firm specializes in complex criminal defense matters. Call 225-330-7009 to request a free consultation with trial attorney Jarrett Ambeau.

Identity Theft

Identity theft is believed to be the fastest-growing white collar crime in America. There are four main types of identity theft.

Medical identity theft

Occurs when individuals identify themselves as another to procure free medical care

Criminal identity theft

One identifies as someone else during an arrest to avoid a summons, detection of a warrant in their real name or to evade an actual arrest or conviction.

Financial identity theft

This is the most common type of identity theft. Financial identity theft occurs when someone uses another person's information to obtain goods, services or information. For example, using a stolen credit card to make fraudulent purchases.

Child identity theft

Using a child's social security or other identifying information to gain credit opportunities, employment or residence.

In Louisiana, it is illegal to either intentionally possess or use any personal details that belong to another person with the intent to use the information to secure money, credit, goods, or services.

Sentencing guidelines for identity theft convictions are determined by several factors, including

  • How much money was stolen
  • The victim of the crime, especially if they are elderly or under the age of 17

Theft of less than $300 is punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $500.

Theft of $300 - $500 is punishable by up yo 5 years in jail and up to $3,000 in fines.

Theft of $500 - $1,000 is punishable by up to 5 years in jail and up to $5,000 in fines.

Theft of $1,000 or more us punishable by up to 10 years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.

If the victim is a child or elderly, the punishment may be more severe.

Healthcare Fraud

Healthcare fraud can be committed by doctors, medical providers, patients, or anyone who intentionally deceives the healthcare system to receive unlawful benefits or payments. According to John Hopkins Healthcare LLC, nearly $60 billion are lost annually due to healthcare fraud and abuse.

The following are reasons a medical provider may be charged with healthcare fraud:

  • Misrepresentation of the type or level of service provided
  • Misrepresentation of the individual rendering service
  • Billing for items and services that have not been rendered
  • Billing for services that have not been properly documented
  • Billing for items and services that are not medically necessary
  • Seeking payment or reimbursement for services rendered for procedures that are integral to other procedures performed on the same date of service (unbundling)
  • Seeking increased payment or reimbursement for services that would be correctly billed at a lower rate (up-coding)

The FBI is the primary agency that investigates healthcare fraud for both federal and private insurance providers.

Corporate Fraud

Corporate fraud typically involves accounting schemes and self-dealing by corporate executives. Obstruction of justice is also a common charge in corporate fraud crimes and results from activities designed to conceal criminal conduct.

Corporate fraud investigations by the FBI primarily focus on the following:

Falsification of financial information:

  • False accounting and/or misrepresentations of financial conditions
  • Fraudulent trades designed to inflate profits or hide losses
  • Illicit transactions designed to escape regulatory oversight

Self-dealing by corporate insiders:

  • Insider trading (stock trading based on material, non-public information)
  • Kickbacks
  • Misuse of corporate property for personal gain
  • Individual tax violations related to self-dealing

Money Laundering

Money laundering is concealing the identity, source, or destination of illegally obtained money. Money laundering is typically a key component of organized crime commonly used to disguise financial assets gained through illicit activities like drug trafficking, corruption, embezzlement or gambling.

The most common form of money laundering is placing "dirty" (illegally obtained) money in a service company where it is layered with legitimate income and integrated into the flow of money. However, there are dozens of methods of money laundering - all of which are illegal in Louisiana.

In Louisiana, laundering of $3,000 or less is a misdemeanor that carries punishments of up to six months in prison and up to $1,000 in fines. A conviction of laundering more than $3,000 carries penalties of up to 99 years in prison and up to $50,000 in fines.


Embezzlement is the fraudulent taking of personal property or money by someone to whom it was entrusted. For example, an attorney may embezzle funds from the trust account of clients or a financial advisor may embezzle funds from investor accounts.

Embezzlement is usually confused with theft or larceny, but the key difference is that embezzlement occurs when the person was trusted with or had ownership of the property or money.

Embezzlement is most often a premeditated crime, as money is discreetly and deliberately transferred without the knowledge of consent of the affected person. Methods of embezzlement vary greatly - some embezzlers “skim off the top” to continually acquire a small amount over time, while others may steal a large amount in a single instance and disappear.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requires that embezzled funds be reported in yearly income taxes. Failure to report embezzled funds as gross income may result in tax evasion charges.

In Louisiana, embezzlement is considered a misdemeanor when less than $750 is stolen and punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and up to six months in prison. Embezzling $750 - $5,000 is considered a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and up to $3,000 in fines. For embezzlement of more than $25,000, a person may face up to 10 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.

White collar crime does not just apply to corporate executives.

White collar crimes can be committed by anyone in the business world, from CEOs down to interns. In fact, most white collar crimes are perpetrated by people who don't consider themselves criminals, they just don't realize that what they're doing is illegal. Further, some people may be involved in a larger scheme they are not aware of, committing crimes without knowledge that they are doing so.

The fact that someone is an intern or entry-level employee does not mean that their actions fall outside of this definition of "white collar" criminality.

Don't face criminal charges alone.

If you or a loved one has been charged with a white collar crime, talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney. Cases involving fraud, embezzlement and other white collar crimes are often very complex, requiring investigation, large volumes of discovery and in-depth knowledge about criminal defense.

The Ambeau Law Firm is a team of trusted and experienced criminal defense attorneys dedicated to guiding clients through complex legal matters. To get started on a free case consultation, call our office at 225-330-7009.