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What Are White-Collar Crimes in Wisconsin?

White-collar crimes in Wisconsin are nonviolent crimes that typically involve deceit or concealment for financial gain or a business advantage. The U.S. Department of Justice announced a renewed focus on this type of offense, leading to the possibility of more arrests in this area.

At the Law Offices of Christopher J. Cherella, we have significant experience in defending clients against white-collar criminal charges and other felony offenses.

DOJ Unveils Plan to Accelerate Indictments

In September 2022, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco unveiled revisions to white-collar criminal investigations. The new guidelines are a reversal from what was announced in October 2021 when Monaco said that recidivists would have their “full range” of prior violations considered.

The new guidance appears to suggest that less weight will be given to unrelated crimes committed 10 or more years before the ongoing matter. Timely self-disclosure and the voluntary submission of information are also considered. Her announcement does not clarify, however, if a non-prosecution agreement or deferred-prosecution agreement is still possible.

White-collar federal crimes investigated by the FBI include the following:

  • Corporate Fraud: Crimes include false accounting, insider trading (including digital assets), and misuse of corporate property
  • Money Laundering: Money is laundered by such crimes as health care fraud, narcotics trafficking, and public corruption
  • Securities and Commodities Fraud: Crimes include fraudulent investment schemes such as Ponzi, pyramid, and Nigerian letter schemes
  • Intellectual Property Theft/Piracy: This includes the unauthorized use of ideas, inventions, and creative works of another

Why Is It Called White-Collar?

The use of the term white-collar traces back to the 1930s. Financially motivated, nonviolent offenses were committed by seemingly respectable professionals who wear white shirts and ties to work. This description led Edwin Sutherland, a sociologist and criminologist who founded the Bloomington School of Criminology at the State University of Indiana, to first use this term.

The stereotype of the business suit is less accurate today, but the name endures.

The most common white-collar crimes are as follows:

About 3% of federal prosecutions fall into one of these categories. Identity theft is one of the fastest-growing crimes. Fortunately, Wisconsin ranks 31st on the list of states with the most identity theft.

Consequences of White-Collar Crime

The possible penalties for federal corporate crimes vary greatly depending on the offense. Gambling and lottery crimes have an average sentence of 5 months. On the other end of the scale, racketeering and extortion have average sentences of 79 months. Fines range from $100,000 to $1 million. Federal courts commonly use fines to penalize individuals found guilty. Authorities can also seize property.

Depending on the facts of the case, some white-collar crimes are charged at the state level. State agencies like the Department of Financial Institutions, the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of Safety and Professional Services, and the Medicaid Fraud Control and Elder Abuse Unit also have enforcement powers, including through civil actions.

Common Defenses in White-Collar Cases

Prosecutors bringing charges related to white-collar crimes must prove criminal intent. Intent is notoriously difficult to prove. Creating doubt in relation to intent is often an effective strategy. A second potential defense is entrapment. When law enforcement set up sting operations, their behavior may induce the criminal activity. This defense tactic must show that the defendant would not have committed the crime if not for the actions of law enforcement.

Circumstances may also suggest that a plea bargain is the best strategy. The defendant typically pleads guilty to a lesser charge in order to receive a less severe sentence. Avoiding trial is less stressful for the accused and their families.

If you are accused of any white-collar crime on the state or federal level, your first call should be to the Law Offices of Christopher J. Cherella. As a former prosecutor with the City of Milwaukee, Attorney Cherella fully understands the mechanisms of prosecution and how to best protect the interests of his criminal defense clients.

He’s available around the clock to provide legal advice and support. Call (414) 882-8382 to schedule a consultation. You can also reach us by completing our online form.