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Defending White Collar Crimes Charges in California | Zentz & Zentz

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“White collar crime” is commonly misunderstood throughout the United States. Many people assume that because this term pertains to nonviolent crimes of a financial nature, white collar crimes are not as serious as offenses such as homicide and armed robbery or that prosecutors do not pursue these crimes as aggressively as violent crimes. While it is true that white collar crime is generally nonviolent in nature, some white collar crime offenses have disastrous consequences on many innocent people, often involving the financial ruin of others for the offender’s personal gain. However, many white collar crime operations are highly complicated and involve many moving parts and participants. Unfortunately, it’s common for people who work for certain powerful individuals and organizations to be unwittingly involved in white collar crimes, only to later discover they’re facing criminal charges. White collar crime cases are some of the most complex criminal cases filed in California, and it is also possible for these cases to unfold in federal court. White collar crime takes many forms, and it can be incredibly difficult for a defendant to determine their best available defenses in any given case. The right attorney can make a significant difference in the outcome of a white collar crime case, potentially helping their client reduce or avoid severe penalties. If you have been charged with any type of white collar crime, a San Diego white collar crimes lawyer could be your best asset in fighting this charge. Zentz & Zentz is a full-service criminal defense firm with years of experience handling a wide range of criminal cases in the San Diego, CA area. If you have been charged with any financial crimes, it is essential to secure legal counsel as soon as possible. These cases often involve complex financial and mathematical matters, and many white collar crime cases involve multiple defendants. We can provide the criminal defense representation you need in this challenging situation.

Why Should I Hire a Private San Diego White Collar Crimes Attorney?

Whenever an American citizen is charged with any criminal offense, they have the right to legal counsel under the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution. If they cannot afford to hire a private defense attorney, the court can appoint a public defender to represent them in their criminal trial. Many people choose public defenders to represent them to avoid paying legal fees. While it may seem prudent to opt for free legal representation, it’s important to know the differences between public defenders and experienced private criminal defense attorneys.

The majority of public defenders are capable, hardworking, and dedicated to defending their clients to the best of their abilities. However, the nature of their work demands that they manage multiple cases at a time, meaning they cannot provide much in the way of personal attention to any given case. A private San Diego white collar crimes attorney can offer far more comprehensive legal counsel. The attorneys at Zentz & Zentz are careful to maintain a balanced caseload, ensuring we can provide each client we represent with the full extent of our resources, experience, and professional attention.

Most Common Examples of White Collar Criminal Defense Cases in San Diego, CA

“White collar crime” is a broad term that can apply to many different criminal offenses. Some of the most commonly cited forms of white collar crimes prosecuted in San Diego courts include:

  • Embezzlement. This term describes the theft of business funds and assets to use for personal expenses or siphoning money out of a business into a private personal account. More broadly, the term “embezzlement” can also apply to misappropriating or mishandling funds placed into one’s care or a violation of a specific fiduciary duty.
  • Extortion. This refers to using threats to coerce another party to engage in a specific behavior so the defendant can receive financial benefits. In the financial world, this can mean leveraging assets to extract specific actions from targeted individuals.
  • Money laundering. This offense is typically the meeting place between street crime and white collar crime. The term “money laundering” refers to “washing” money gained through criminal activities through a legitimate business. A criminal organization may partner with a legitimate business, typically a cash-centric one, and place funds from drug sales, human trafficking, sex trafficking, and other criminal enterprises into the business, intermingling it with the business’s legitimate profits. The business owner then produces bogus transactions or otherwise obfuscates the ill-gotten funds to disguise them as business proceeds. Typically, the final stage of any money laundering organization is a means for the criminal participants to extract their funds from the business in an apparently legitimate fashion.
  • Fraud. This is a very broad term that encompasses various forms of deception for the intent of financial gain. Check fraud, wire fraud, corporate fraud, tax fraud, and mail fraud are all examples of fraud that fall within the purview of white collar crime.

White collar crime can occur in many ways, and any kind of business can become involved in these criminal activities.

Who Investigates White Collar Crime?

Law enforcement agencies at both the state and federal levels can investigate white collar crimes. State law enforcement will typically handle white collar crime cases that occur within the state, while federal law enforcement could step in when a white collar crime operation spans multiple states or countries or involves government programs. It is also possible for a white collar crime case to bring the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act into play. The RICO Act was first established to combat organized crime syndicates in 1970, but it is still used today to investigate and prosecute all types of criminal organizations and conspiracies.

If you are arrested by local or state police for a white collar crime, your case will probably unfold at the state level in a state criminal court. However, if you were the subject of a federal investigation managed by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), Department of Labor, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), or the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), your case is more likely to unfold at the federal level, and the potential penalties for conviction will be much more severe in a federal white collar crime case.

What Is the Most Common Punishment for White Collar Crime?

The penalties for white collar crimes vary depending on many factors, such as the amount of money involved in the illegal activities in question, the number of participants in an organized white collar criminal conspiracy, and the number of victims affected by the defendants’ behavior. Typically, the penalties for conviction of a white collar crime can include:

  • Forfeitures and restitution. The defendant must forfeit any ill-gotten gains from their white collar crime. If their activities caused economic harm to victims, they will be responsible for reimbursing their losses.
  • Home detention. Otherwise known as “house arrest,” the offender may be forbidden from leaving their home for a certain amount of time and likely required to wear a monitoring device to ensure they do not violate this provision of their sentence.
  • Fines and penalty assessments. The defendant will likely face heavy fines based on the severity of their actions, and they may be required to pay the cost of prosecution.
  • Supervised release. Also referred to as parole, supervised release can come into play if the defendant agrees to certain provisions and restrictions in exchange for avoiding jail. For example, they may be forbidden from leaving California or engaging in specific financial activities, such as day trading stocks online.
  • Imprisonment. More severe white collar crime cases can lead to incarceration. The length of the prison term hinges on the severity of the offense, but it’s possible for some white collar crime convictions to result in prison sentences spanning many years.

A defendant convicted of any white collar crime will likely face a combination of these penalties. Additionally, their conviction can have severe consequences for their personal and professional life, including loss of standing in their community, loss of professional licenses, and much more.

What to Expect from Your San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney

If you were wrongfully accused of a white collar crime or unwittingly involved in a white collar crime operation due to the actions of your employer, it is essential to secure legal counsel from an experienced San Diego white collar crimes lawyer as soon as possible to begin working on your defense. Even if you knowingly broke the law and the prosecution has a solid case against you, it is crucial to obtain legal counsel from a trusted defense attorney for the best chance of avoiding the harshest possible sentencing your case may entail.

Zentz & Zentz understand the stress and uncertainty that follow any criminal charge. If you have been accused of any white collar crime in San Diego, it is crucial that you exercise your right to legal counsel as soon as possible after your arrest. If you are facing any white collar crime charges in San Diego, we can help. Contact Zentz & Zentz today to schedule a consultation with an experienced San Diego white collar crimes attorney.

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