White Collar Crimes
White Collar Defense in Houston: Brazoria, Ft. Bend, Galveston, Harris & Montgomery Counties
The rise of the “Internet Age” has made it possible to conduct practically any aspect of daily business activity by using a home computer, a laptop, tablet computer or even a smart phone. While there is no doubt that the convenience of using such devices is an important part of the modern business world, the rise of electronic commerce has led to an increase in what is commonly identified as a white collar crime.
What is a White Collar Crime?
White collar crimes can be defined as a non-violent criminal act that is usually committed during the course of financial transactions. It can also be any exchange of money for the purpose of inducing one party to grant some unlawful consideration to another party. In Texas, the more frequently encountered white collar crimes include:
- Identity Theft
- Insurance Fraud
- Internet Crimes
- Medical Fraud
- Money Laundering
- Online Impersonation
- Ponzi Schemes
- Telemarketing Fraud
Give Greg Tsioros a call today at (832) 752-5972 for a free case evaluation.
As mentioned, the majority of white collar crimes involve the alleged misuse or misdirection of money or other financial instruments such as promissory notes, common and preferred stocks, certificates of deposit and money orders. In response to the upsurge in white collar crimes, state and federal authorities have enacted an almost literal mountain of laws and regulations governing financial transactions. Most of these laws and regulations are defined as felonies and are so complex that a white collar lawyer is needed to translate them to a suspect.
Stealing from an employer constitutes embezzlement in the state of Texas. Typically, embezzlement cases are complicated and require a thorough evaluation of the relevant financial records by a knowledgeable defense attorney. Embezzlement involves the theft of property with the intent to defraud or deprive the owner.
Embezzlement may involve the outright theft of an employer’s goods or services, but it can also include the transfer of funds illegally or the doctoring of financial records to conceal the theft or transfer of funds or property. The available penalties for an embezzlement conviction will vary depending on the value of the goods and services involved. Even a misdemeanor conviction for embezzling less than $1,500 is punishable by a maximum jail sentence of one year. The embezzlement of anything over $200,000 is a 1st degree felony and is punishable by between five and 99 years in state prison. A convicted embezzler may also face financial penalties and a requirement to make restitution to the property owner.
Forgery allegations should be met with a thorough investigation and a strong defense. Forgery comes in many forms, but the one thing that all forgery cases have in common is the serious penalties that are available in the state of Texas. Among the most common forms of forgery are check fraud, forged currency, credit card fraud, welfare fraud and forged documents. Every forgery case is unique and often complicated. It’s important that the legal rights of every forgery defendant be protected.
Even a first-time forgery conviction is punishable by heavy fines, incarceration and restitution. Moreover, the consequences of going through life with a criminal record should never be underestimated. Everything from employment and housing to education and social services suddenly become more difficult to obtain. A felony conviction can even deprive a defendant of the right to vote or own a firearm. The weakest elements of a forgery charge should be uncovered and challenged, and the prosecution must be held to the high standard of proving every element of a forgery charge beyond a reasonable doubt.
The increasingly popular crime of identity theft is all over the news these days, but Texas prosecutors are doing their best to keep up with the identity thieves. The rapid evolution of computer technology and the widespread use of credit cards have made it possible for nearly anyone to get caught up in an identity theft case. An identity theft conviction can drastically impair a defendant’s personal and professional life.
The available penalties for an identity theft conviction will depend on whether the crime was committed in an aggravated manner. If the funds, goods or services were used to perpetuate additional crime or terrorism, the punishment can be quite severe. The value of the stolen property and the criminal record of the offender will also be taken into account. A conviction could mean incarceration, probation, financial penalties and a requirement to reimburse identity theft victims. Most convicted felons also find it difficult to obtain suitable employment, housing and educational services.
Considering that nearly everyone has insurance of one sort or another, it isn’t at all surprising that insurance fraud is a common white collar crime. It’s true that insurance fraud allegations are frequently engendered by misunderstandings or unintended mistakes, but an insurance fraud conviction can impose life altering consequences. Insurance fraud charges can be filed for providing inaccurate information concerning an insurance policy application or claim.
It is a crime to knowingly submit or assist in the preparation of a fraudulent statement for insurance purposes. It is also illegal to receive any benefit resulting from a fraudulent insurance application or claim. Fraud allegations arise from every type of insurance coverage, including personal and commercial auto, worker’s compensation, health, life, property and liability.
Depending on the amount of money involved and the previous criminal history of the defendant, an insurance fraud conviction can lead to probation, restitution, incarceration and financial penalties. A conviction can also limit access to housing, education services, security clearances and employment opportunities.
Cybercrime legislation has been adopted at both the state and federal level to diminish the growing number of crimes committed on the Internet. Many traditional crimes are now perpetrated with the aid of the Internet. Crimes such as harassment, theft, stalking, blackmail and extortion are now routinely prosecuted as Internet crimes.
Internet misdemeanor and felony convictions are punishable by incarceration, financial penalties, restitution, community service or probation. Cybercrime prosecutions involve massive amounts of digital evidence and may result in the seizure of a defendant’s computer equipment and data storage devices.
It is illegal to use the Internet to initiate a sexual relationship or to schedule a meeting with a minor child. Criminal charges can also be filed for spreading malicious information or breaching electronic accounts for the purpose of stealing confidential and financial information on the Internet. Attacking digital networks and data banks with malware or computer viruses is also a criminal offense.
Medical fraud is a white collar crime that can catch a medical professional by surprise. The constant growth and reform of state and federal welfare and medical insurance programs can easily result in regulatory infractions and legal violations. Administrative laws and rulings are subject to revision and interpretation.
Individual health care providers and health care organizations often find it necessary to seek legal assistance as they struggle to prove their innocence and protect their livelihood. Even simple rule changes can produce a fraud investigation or criminal prosecution. State and federal bureaucracies have a reputation for being inflexible and unforgiving.
The documentation and billing practices of nursing homes, hospitals and private health care practices are receiving special attention these days. Government regulators and prosecutors play a large role in the ongoing effort to eliminate medical fraud and contain health care costs. Medicaid and Medicare providers may have to defend themselves against crimes such as billing fraud, double billing and providing unnecessary medical services.
Money laundering is an indispensable aspect of getting away with a major crime. Drug dealers, embezzlers, terrorists and other criminals go to great lengths to legitimize their tainted cash. Once the dirty cash has been cleaned up a bit, it’s nearly impossible for the law enforcement community to detect its origin.
Even though U.S. banks are required to report transactions in excess of $10,000, innovative criminals have learned how to launder their ill-gotten gains. They begin by depositing small amounts of cash into a variety of banks over many days. Federal officials have responded by developing sophisticated computer programs to detect suspicious activity. Offshore and underground banks are also used to avoid detection.
A money laundering cycle typically involves the repeated transfer of cash deposits through a network of banks and accounts. The cash can then be run through private businesses or used to purchase expensive houses, cars and other luxury items. These valuable assets can then be sold to obtain clean and undetectable cash.
It’s against the law to pose as someone else on the Internet without their permission. Online impersonation charges for threatening or otherwise harming Internet consumers by using the disguise of another person’s persona is punishable by a 3rd degree felony conviction. The crime of online impersonation includes the use of a website or any commercial messaging service in order to intimidate or defraud online consumers.
The Texas Penal Code prescribes severe penalties for creating a page or sending messages on any website, including social networking sites, while posing as someone else without their expressed permission. The prohibition against sending unlawful messages includes instant messages, electronic mail and text messages. It is a criminal offense to employ another party’s name, email address, telephone number or other personal information for the purpose of misleading online patrons. The act of impersonation involves any attempt by an offender to cause another party to believe that they are someone other than who they really are.
Identity theft crimes, including phishing to illegally obtain personal and financial information on the Internet, are on the rise. Criminals use fraudulent emails and websites to scam unsuspecting victims every day. Personal information such as names, dates of birth, credit cards, PIN numbers and account passwords are quickly converted into cash by Internet thieves.
An illegal phishing crime is punishable by probation, incarceration, restitution or financial penalties. A felony wire fraud conviction can send an offender to jail for many years. Employing fake websites to defraud victims can be prosecuted under a variety of state and federal laws. Opening false accounts by using stolen information is a crime.
It isn’t even necessary to use the stolen information to be prosecuted. Merely attempting to obtain confidential personal or financial information is sufficient grounds for criminal charges to be filed against an alleged offender. Internet spoofs and scams cost consumers millions of dollars every year.
Named for Charles Ponzi, a 1920’s scam artist, Ponzi schemes use the investment capital of new investors to pay profits to older investors. Prospective investors are enticed by promises of extravagant financial rewards. Although Ponzi scheme organizers frequently point to a strong record of previous financial gains to lure new investors, the supposed financial gains did not accrue from investment earnings. Instead, new investment capital was used to maintain the illusion of real financial earnings.
Ponzi scheme victims are eligible for punitive damages under the law. Anyone that feels that they have been victimized by a Ponzi scheme artist should have their case reviewed by a qualified attorney. Punitive damages can exceed the amount of money that was lost.
Eventually, every Ponzi scheme crumbles under the weight of its imprudent design. Once the imaginary profits start to decline and it becomes harder to attract investors, wary investors begin to withdraw their investment capital. At that point, the scheme is undone.
Telemarketing fraudsters use the telephone to deprive unsuspecting victims of their cash and savings. The Federal Trade Commission works closely with local law enforcement agencies to detect and prosecute telemarketing crimes. Telemarketing scams take many forms, including the sale of fake buying club memberships, fundraisers, military clubs, firefighting organizations and various charities. Some of these operations continue to bill victims for products they never ordered.
A telemarketing fraud conviction can result in a federal prison sentence and severe financial penalties. Telemarketers often deceive victims by offering easy credit and free government grants. They are known to resell the personal information they steal to other fraudsters or use the social security numbers of victims to open credit card accounts.
Telemarketers take advantage of the good will of victims by posing as fundraising representatives for cancer fighting and other benevolent organizations. They frequently peddle discount medical plans, work at home opportunities or sweepstakes and lottery offers.
How Greg Tsioros Can Help
Although there are many instances in which a white collar crime is a deliberate, planned act, there are also many cases in which innocent mistakes or simple lapses in judgment have led to people being charged with crimes of this type. When such charges are made, it is vitally important that the accused contact a defense attorney with considerable experience in defending against these charges. If you have been charged with a white collar crime, attorney Greg Tsioros is ready to provide you with an aggressive and well-planned defense.
Before establishing the Law Office of Greg Tsioros, Mr. Tsioros worked in the Harris County District Attorney’s Office where he became familiar with the procedures and requirements required for a conviction in criminal cases. After leaving the District Attorney’s Office, Greg entered the private practice of criminal law and has successfully defended the constitutional rights of hundreds of clients.
Contact Greg Tsioros today at (832) 752-5972 for a free case evaluation.