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Common threads for Louisiana white collar crimes

It would be an understatement to say the federal government aggressively prosecutes financial crimes. In fiscal 2011, the Federal Bureau of Investigation convicted 241 corporate criminals. In a single year, white collar crime charges and convictions led to more than $16 million in fines and $2.4 billion in restitution.

Money is the common denominator in white collar crimes. Charges vary based on how the crime is committed and the victims of the crime. Baton Rouge residents may think of white collar criminals as suit-and-tie types. Someone who lies to the Internal Revenue Service about income or an insurer about a loss can be as guilty of a white collar offense as the investment firm that engineers a Ponzi scheme.

If you've ever make an error filing federal taxes, you learn quickly how serious the government is about monitoring the flow of money. Anxiety during an IRS audit is similar to the stress experienced by wrongly-accused white collar defendants. You feel like you did something very wrong, even when the truth is you just made a mistake.

Of course, some individuals and businesses purposely try to evade taxes, lie on loan applications and collect more than the rightful proceeds from insurance policies. The motivator is money just as it is for other types of financial crimes like healthcare fraud, embezzlement, money laundering and securities fraud.

For example, people with inside knowledge about financial securities – company officers, business owners, stockbrokers and others – may not make trades based on information unreleased to the public. It's also illegal for investment firms to represent securities falsely to encourage investors to buy them. This includes any claims the sales representative should know are not true.

Deception and misappropriation of funds are key elements in proving fraud. Government prosecutors must show you meant to commit a financial crime before you can be convicted of one.

Source: FindLaw, "White Collar Crime" Oct. 15, 2014

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