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Defining white-collar crime

People in Newport may hear the term “white-collar crime” and conjure up images of debonair thieves stealing millions from giant corporations and being sent to the mythical “Club Fed” if they ever happen to get caught. However, such crimes are typically much less glamorous than popular media depicts them to be. Plus, the penalties that one may face for being convicted of such activity are often much more severe, as well.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation states that the definition of white-collar crime depends on the entity defining it. Some classify it based upon the social standing of the offender, while others define it based upon the organizational culture in which it occurs. For its part, The FBI views it as being any illegal action perpetrated through deceit, the violation of trust or concealment, independent of its application or any threat of force, that is committed to secure property, personal or professional advantages, or money and/or services, or to avoid a monetary loss.

The Office of the Attorney General of Rhode Island lists the following as being specific examples of white collar crime:

  •          Embezzlement
  •          Forgery
  •          Banking violations
  •          Extortion
  •          Perjury
  •          Obtaining money under false pretenses

Criminal conversion, or exercising unauthorized control of another’s property, is also considered to be white collar crime. So too is criminal usury (making unethical or immoral monetary loans), as well as any activity involving mortgage or loan fraud.

As white collar crimes often involve the violation of federal laws, convictions may results in one being sent to a federal penitentiary. Due to the connection to federal regulations, a common defense often cited in such cases is entrapment, where one states that government officials took advantage of one’s situation to entice him or her into committing a crime that he or she would not have otherwise considered.


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