McLeod Law Firm, P.C. has been successfully defending those accused of all types of felonies and misdemeanors throughout North Georgia. We know that most people charged with a white-collar crime have never had contact with the criminal justice system – and never expected to be arrested. When a well-respected professional person is accused of financial misconduct and charged with a crime, it is a stressful and potentially life-altering experience. The allegations alone can damage your reputation and threaten the value of a business entity. A white-collar crime can result in both state and federal charges. With reports of financial scandals flooding media reports, prosecutors at both the state and federal levels have become very aggressive in pursuing convictions in white-collar criminal cases. Federal charges can be particularly challenging because federal prosecutors are well trained and have extensive resources at their disposal.
White-collar crime refers to a form of criminal activity that usually involves financial or business matters and usually involves professionals. The list of white-collar crimes is extensive, but the more common offenses include embezzlement, bank fraud, bribery, counterfeiting, extortion, bribery, identity theft, computer crimes, income tax evasion, and forgery. At McLeod Law Firm, P.C., we have extensive knowledge and experience with the complex financial transactions, business practices and financial documents that may be critical in a white-collar criminal prosecution. Whether you have been formally charged with a white-collar crime or are merely under investigation, we will diligently represent your best interest so that we can obtain the best possible outcome.
White-collar offenses in Georgia are generally categorized as felonies. Some of the more common white-collar offenses include the following elements and penalties:
Elements of White-collar Crimes in Georgia
An individual who is entrusted with money or property and appropriates it for their own use commits embezzlement. It can include a bank employee who skims money or a cashier who steals from the cash register. To be convicted, the prosecution must prove each of the following beyond a reasonable doubt:
- A fiduciary relationship must exist between the defendant and the victim;
- The fiduciary relationship formed the basis for the offender’s access to and possession of the victim’s property;
- The defendant illegally converted the property to their own use;
- The defendant intentionally performed these acts
The accused must have willfully converted the property without mistake or the consent of the victim. Merely having possession of the property is not embezzlement, but it may constitute larceny.
The penalty includes a fine up to $1,000, restitution and jail time of up to 5 years. The penalties are more severe if a federal institution like a bank is involved.
This is a broad classification that includes hacking or those who intend and do engage in computer data interception, theft, sabotage, unauthorized access, modification, forgery, planting of viruses, and fraud.
It also encompasses downloading child pornography, music piracy, and cyber-stalking. Because computer crimes cross into areas of intellectual property and pornography laws, there are no common elements other than possessing the intent to commit the underlying crime by use of a computer to illicitly gain goods or resources or to cause harm to another person or entity. It also entails the violation of the confidentiality and integrity of the computer system.
This crime typically involves payments or benefits made to influence or to gain profits from a public official or representative of a company which receives the benefit. The elements are:
- An agent or officer is involved;
- There is a corrupt intent;
- It is without the consent of the company for whom the individual is acting;
- It relates to the affairs of the person who provides the bribe
The bribe need not be accepted, and the accused can be charged for merely agreeing to accept a bribe. Further, a person can only be bribed to do an act in the course of their official duty. For instance, a person commits bribery by offering money to a judge to dismiss criminal charges, but a judge who merely accepts free tickets to a baseball game is not guilty of any crime.
The penalty for bribery is imprisonment for 1-20 years and/or a fine of up to $5,000.
Someone who with intent uses or possesses another person’s identifying data without their consent is guilty of identity theft.
If the person uses another person’s identity in a lawful manner or to pursue legitimate commercial purposes, such as use in an advertisement, they may be exempt from prosecution. The use of a false ID by someone under 21 to gain entry to a commercial establishment also is exempt.
The penalty for a first time offender can be 1-10 years in prison and/or a fine up to $10,000. All subsequent offenses carry a jail sentence of 3-15 years and a fine up to $250,000.
In Georgia, forgery is considered fraud. There are two classifications of the offense:
Forgery in the Second Degree
- The intent to defraud, alter, make, or possess a writing in a fictitious name;
- To make another person believe the writing was done by another person at a different time;
- Or, the accused represents that they had permission to use the writing.
Forgery in the First Degree
The accused attempts to pass or does use the writing that meets the requirements above.
Examples are writing checks on a closed account or one that lacks insufficient funds.
The penalties depend on the dollar amount the accused is guilty of taking from the victim. It is a misdemeanor if the amount is under $100 with a penalty of up to one year in jail and a fine less than $500.
If the amount of the fraud involves $100 to $300, it is still a misdemeanor, but the fine is less than $1,000 with jail time of less than one year.
From $300 to $499, the crime is an “aggravated” misdemeanor with a fine of less than $500 and jail time up to one year.
Over $500, the crime is a felony with fines up to $1,000 and 1-5 years in jail.
A conviction for a white-collar crime can also lead to the loss of a professional license and payment of restitution, which may be in the thousands or millions of dollars.
White-collar crimes are very serious with high profile cases covered in media reports resulting in sentences involving hundreds of years in prison and millions of dollars in restitution. McLeod Law Firm, P.C. will carefully analyze the underlying facts in your case so that we can develop an effective defense strategy designed to obtain a dismissal of charges, acquittal at trial or less serious charges. White-collar crimes involve intentional deception and breach of trust. A white-collar crime can be extremely complex and may require testimony from experts in financial matters. It may consist of a considerable paper trail or electronic data that a team of attorneys and their assistants will have to wade through to provide a viable defense.
Some defenses include coercion, incapacity, or entrapment. These all involve a lack of or inability to form intent to commit the crime. An accused in a sensitive position also may have been coerced–or entrapped–by a government representative to commit a crime the defendant otherwise would not have committed.
Another defense is that the defendant lacked the intent to commit the crime, although this may go to mitigating any penalties (i.e. a less severe sentence).