Beyond the silver screen

When many think of white-collar crime, they often envision gangsters, the mob, crime rings and other organized offenses. Much of this imagery comes from the movies, as Hollywood has made cinematic efforts to depict some of the most notorious and notable mafia and mob prosecutions of all time. However, such hyped stereotypes are not the only examples of white-collar crime. In fact, white-collar crime can involve very inconspicuous transactions.

White-collar crime is prosecuted through federal laws or New York's legal system. Prosecutors are quick to punish white-collar offenders and do not hesitate to impose significant penalties, including hefty fines and ample time behind bars.

While authorities remain aggressive in pursuing offenders of white-collar crime, it is not hard for a person to be unintentionally brought into in a scheme and be unaware of the criminal repercussions. For those accused of a white-collar crime, it is helpful to retain a qualified legal professional who can challenge any allegations.

Again, white-collar crime charges derive from both state and federal laws. As a New York resident, it is helpful to be familiar with both.

What are white-collar offenses under New York codes?

Several criminal offenses are within the ambit of white-collar crime in the state. There are seven common charges that makeup this type of criminal activity. These crimes are typically executed in a criminal network or system.

Issuing a bad check: A person may face charges for issuing a bad check if he or she, with knowledge, writes a check from an account containing inadequate funds. This is considered a Class B misdemeanor.

Forgery: Under New York law, there are three main types of forgery. Generally, forgery in the third degree is when a person creates, completes or alters a written instrument in an effort to deceive or harm another. This practice is deemed a Class A misdemeanor.

Second-degree forgery involves the offense in the third degree, but the charge is more egregious. An offense in the second degree involves one of the following instruments:

  • A legal agreement
  • Assignment
  • Will
  • A medical prescription
  • Certificates or notes in place of tangible money
  • Commercial instrument
  • Credit card
  • A public record
  • A deed
  • Codicil
  • An instrument created or issued by a public authority

Forgery in the second degree is considered a Class D felony.

A first-degree charge is the most severe. It is also forgery in the third degree; however, it includes one of the following:

  • Money
  • Stocks
  • Bonds
  • Securities
  • Stamps
  • Any government-issued instrument of value
  • Any instruments that signify interests or claims in or against an organization or corporation

First-degree forgery is considered a Class C felony.

Identity theft: Another serious white-collar crime in New York involves the theft of one's identity. This crime, too, can be executed in varying degrees. Identity theft in the third degree is when a person "assumes the identity of another with the intent to commit fraud." In such cases, the offender represents himself or herself as another person and behaves as if he or she is, in fact, the person. Generally, offenders use the personal identification information of the victim to perform the crime and complete one of the following actions:

• Receives property

• Acquires money

• Purchases goods

• Uses services

• Uses the victim's credit

• Causes financial loss

• Commits fraud (that is at least a Class A misdemeanor)

This offense is charged as a Class A misdemeanor.

In the second-degree level, the offender will do the same aforementioned actions; yet, the financial damage is slightly higher. He or she will acquire money, use services, purchase goods, use another's credit, cause financial lost or obtain property in an amount specifically over $500. To be liable for the crime in the second degree, the offender can also do one of the following

• Execute, attempt to commit or act as an accessory to a crime that is a felony

• Execute third-degree identity theft with a prior conviction for identity theft or larceny

This is a Class E felony.

Finally, first-degree identity theft is chargeable if a person commits the aforementioned forms of identity theft; yet, this crime involves financial defrauding in amounts over two grand. The offense is also applicable when the offender commits, attempts to execute or serves as an accessory to a Class D felony or more. Moreover, if a person commits second-degree identity theft and has a previous conviction for a similar crime or larceny, he or she could be liable for a charge in the first degree. This charge in the first degree is deemed a Class D charge.

Illegal use of a credit card or debit card: A white-collar crime can also involve the illegal use a credit or debit card. A suspect can be convicted of this crime if he or she uses another's credit or debit card. This can also occur when one knowingly uses a card, which has been cancelled or revoked, to obtain items or services. This crime, which is quite common, is punishable as a Class A misdemeanor.

Scheme to defraud: A defrauding scheme is another white-collar offense in New York. A person can be guilty of this second-degree crime if he or she participates in a system that is methodical and continuous and aims to deceive another or aims to receive property from one or more individuals (and successfully does) through illegal, fraudulent measures. A scheme to defraud is a Class A misdemeanor.

An individual can be guilty of this first-degree charge if he or she engages in an ongoing plan to illegally deceive at least ten people or to unlawfully take property from at least ten people (and successfully does). A person can be liable for a first-degree offense if he or she commits a method to defraud in the second degree, and the worth of the property in question is more than one grand or the fraud was executed against a defenseless person. This first-degree crime is deemed a Class E felony. There are other similar offenses related to this charge.

Forging company records: Forging or falsifying business records is common in the corporate world. This offense has two levels. It is considered a second-degree offense when a person does any one of the following:

  • Makes a forged or fake entry in company records "with the intent to defraud"

• Transforms, deletes or removes a company record "with the intent to defraud"

• Omits an entry in a company record "with the intent to defraud"

• Prevents the documentation of a business record "with the intent to defraud"

Falsifying business records in the second degree is punishable as a Class A misdemeanor. The offense in the first degree is similar, but it is when a person additionally tries to commit, help or cover up a crime. This is a Class E charge.

Criminal possession of a forged instrument: Another common white-collar crime involves a person who unlawfully possesses a fake or forged instrument. In the third degree, this is when a person knows that the instrument is not real and plans to deceive or harm another with the invalid instrument. This is a Class A misdemeanor. A second-degree version of this same offense occurs with one or more of the following:

• A legal agreement

• Assignment

• Will

• A medical prescription

• Certificates or notes in place of tangible money

• Commercial instrument

• Credit card

• A public record

• A deed

• Codicil

• An instrument created or issued by a public authority

This offense is punishable as a Class D felony. A first-degree offense involves the same contents as first-degree forgery, such as bonds or stocks. This crime is punishable as a Class C felony.

These seven offenses make up the most basic white-collar crime charges in New York. Yet, it is imperative to recognize that some criminal actions ignite federal repercussions. Moreover, depending on the assigned Class or level of the charge, the offender will face particular consequences. Therefore, it is helpful to gain a better breakdown of charges. This is especially true because many of these charges overlap and blend.

According to the FBI, the term "white-collar crime" was reportedly coined in 1939. Despite the glorified definition as expressed by big motion pictures, the epithet generally describes financially motivated crime that does not involve violence. Moreover, business and government professionals often execute this category of criminal activity. To learn more about state or federal white-collar charges and associated penalties, speak with a legal professional in New York.