White Collar Crimes

Economic or “White Collar” Crimes

Economic or “White Collar” Crimes often involve conduct that sits squarely on the border between legal and illegal conduct. Intent is often the key to converting a white collar crime to a civil lawsuit with no criminal ramifications, but it can be very difficult to convince prosecutors that someone who cost someone else money did it with no criminal intent, especially where charges have already been filed. This is where the skills of a top-notch criminal defense attorney are priceless. Although they lack the physical violence of traditional crimes, crimes like forgery, writing bad checks, and identity theft can carry serious punishments. If you are accused of an economic crime, meet with an experienced attorney who can analyze the facts and circumstances of your case and provide you with the best advice under the circumstances.

The following are examples of white collar or economic crimes in Pennsylvania:

  • Forgery
  • Simulating objects of antiquity, rarity, etc.
  • Tampering with records or identification
  • Bad checks
  • Access device fraud
  • Deceptive or fraudulent business practices
  • Theft by failure to make required disposition of funds received
  • Commercial bribery and breach of duty to act disinterestedly
  • Defrauding secured creditors
  • Fraud in insolvency
  • Receiving deposits in a failing financial institution
  • Misapplication of entrusted property and property of government or financial institutions
  • Securing execution of documents by deception
  • Insurance fraud
  • Identity theft

If you face the possibility of an arrest for a white collar or economic crime in Pennsylvania you should speak with one of our experienced former prosecutors at once as there are many complicated decisions that must be made immediately. For instance, almost no one is aware that Theft By Deception from an elderly person in Pennsylvania carries a one year mandatory minimum jail sentence. This means that if you are convicted of the crime the trial Judge would have no choice but to incarcerate you for one year or more in a state penitentiary. Yet, in many cases we have been able to have the Theft By Deception charge dismissed at the outset of the case. The case proceeds as a regular theft case and the client gets little or no jail time at all. Waiting to make this decision could compromise the availability of this outcome.

Forgery: A person is guilty of forgery if, with intent to defraud or injure anyone, or with knowledge that he is assisting a fraud or injury to be perpetrated by another, the person:

-alters any writing of another without his authority

-completes, executes, authenticates, or transfers any writing so that it purports to be the act of another who did not authorize that act, or to have been executed at a time or place or in a numbered sequence other than was in fact the case, or to be a copy of an original when no such original existed

-utters any writing which he knows to be forged in a manner specified above

If the forged writing is or purports to be part of an issue of money, securities, postage or instruments issued by the government, or part of an issue of stock or bonds, the offense is felony if the second degree.

If the forged writing is or purports to be a will, deed, contract, release, commercial instrument, or other document evidencing, creating, transferring, altering, terminating or otherwise affecting legal relations, the offense is a felony of the third degree.

If the forged writing is one not mentioned above, the offense is a misdemeanor of the first degree.

Simulating objects of antiquity: A person commits a misdemeanor of the first degree if, with intent to defraud anyone or with knowledge that he is assisting a fraud, he makes, alters, or utters any object so that it appears to have value because of antiquity, rarity, source, or authorship which it does not possess.

Tampering with records or identification: A person commits a misdemeanor of the first degree if, knowing that he has no privilege to do so, he falsifies, destroys, removes or conceals any writing, record, distinguishing mark, brand or other identification with intent to deceive or injure anyone or to conceal any wrongdoing.

Bad checks: A person commits the offense if he issues or passes a check (or similar order) for the payment of money, knowing that it will not be honored by the drawee. A violation occurs whether the location of the issuance or passing of the check is in Pennsylvania or not. It is not a defense that some or all of the acts constituting the offense occurred outside Pennsylvania.

An issuer is presumed to know that the check (other than a post-dated check) would not be paid, if payment was refused because the issuer had no such account with the drawee at the time the check was issued or payment was refused by the drawee for lack of funds, upon presentation within 30 days after issue, and the issuer failed to make good within ten days after receiving notice of the refusal. Receiving notice can be accomplished in several ways: registered or certified mail, regardless of whether a receipt was requested or returned, to the address printed on the check or, if none, then to the issuer’s last known address.

An issuer is also presumed to know that the check would not be paid, if a check is stamped “insufficient funds” or a check is stamped “account closed” or “no such account” or “counterfeit.”

The following chart lists the grading for writing bad checks:

Check Amount Penalty
Less than $200 Summary Offense
$200-$499.99 Misdemeanor 3
$500-$999.99 Misdemeanor 2
$1,000-$74,999.99 Misdemeanor 1
$75,000 or more Felony 3

It is worth noting that when the offense is a third or subsequent offense within a five year period, regardless of the amount of the check or order and regardless of the grading of the prior offenses, the offense constitutes a misdemeanor of the first degree unless the amount of the check involved in the third or subsequent offense is $75,000 or more; then the offense is a felony of the third degree.

Access device fraud: A person can commit this offense in one of three ways.

First, he can use an access device (usually a credit card, debit card, ATM card, or personal identification number) to obtain or attempt to obtain property with knowledge that the access device is counterfeit or altered, the device is issued to another person who has not authorized its use, the device has been revoked or canceled, or for another reason his use of the access device is unauthorized by the issuer or the device holder.

Here, the offense is categorized depending on the value of the property or service obtained:

Value Classification
Less than $50.00 Misdemeanor 2
$50.00-$499.99 Misdemeanor 1
$500.00 or more Felony 3

If the activity constitutes a scheme or course of conduct, regardless of whether the activity is from the same issuer, the offense may be aggregated in determining the classification and punishment.

Second, he can publish, make, sell, give or transfer to another person, or aid another person to use a device knowing that the device is counterfeit, altered, belongs to another person who has not authorized its use, or is unauthorized by the issuer or the device holder. Here, the offense is a felony of the third degree

Third, he can merely possess a device knowing that is counterfeit, altered, or belongs to another person who has not authorized its possession. Here, the offense constitutes a misdemeanor of the third degree.

In the second and third points above, each device involved in the offense will constitute a separate offense.

Deceptive or fraudulent business practices: There are many ways in which one can commit this offense. The most common are outlines below. A person commits a deceptive or fraudulent business practice if, in the course of business, he:

-uses or possesses for use a false weight or measure, or any other device for falsely determining or recording any quality or quantity

-sells or offers for sale, or delivers less than the represented quantity of a commodity or service

-takes or attempts to take more than the represented quantity of any commodity or service when as a buyer he furnishes the weight or measure

-makes a false or misleading statement in any advertisement addressed to the public or to a substantial segment of the public for the purpose of promoting the purchase or sale or property or services

-makes or induces others to rely on a false or misleading written statement for the purpose of obtaining property or credit

-obtains or attempts to obtain property of another by false or misleading representations made through communications conducted in whole or in part telephone involving express or implied claims that the person contacted has won a prize

The following chart demonstrates the penalties for partaking in deceptive or fraudulent business practices:

Amount Involved Penalty
Amount cannot be ascertained Misdemeanor 2
Less than $200 Misdemeanor 2
$200-$2,000 Misdemeanor 1
Over $2,000 Felony 3

Amounts involved in deceptive or fraudulent business practices pursuant to one scheme or course of conduct, whether from the same person or several persons, may be aggregated in determining the grade of the offense.

Where a person commits this offense and the victim is 60 years of age or older, the grading of the offense will be one grade higher than what it usually specified.

Theft by failure to make required disposition of funds received: This offense is also known as embezzlement. A person who obtains property upon agreement or legal obligation, to make specified payments or other disposition (whether from the property or its proceeds or from his own property to be reserved in equivalent amount) is guilty of the offense if he intentionally handles the property obtained as his own and fails to make the required payment or disposition. It is irrelevant that it may be impossible to identify particular property as belonging to the victim at the time the actor failed to make the required payment of disposition.

An officer or employee of the government or of a financial institution is presumed to know any legal obligation relevant to his criminal liability and to have dealt with the property as his own if he fails to pay or account upon lawful demand, or if an audit reveals a shortage or falsification of accounts.

Please consult the chart attached to the Theft page for the applicable penalties.

Commercial bribery and breach of duty to act disinterestedly: An employee, agent or fiduciary commits a misdemeanor of the second degree when he solicits, accepts, or agrees to accept any benefit from another person upon agreement or understanding that such benefit will influence his conduct in relation to the affairs of his employer or principal without the consent of his employer or principal.

Defrauding secured creditors: A person commits a misdemeanor of the second degree if he destroys, removes, conceals, encumbers, transfers or otherwise deals with property subject to a security interest or after levy has been made on the property with intent to hinder enforcement of the interest.

Fraud in insolvency: A person commits a misdemeanor of the second degree if, knowing that proceedings have been or are about to be instituted for the appointment of a receiver or person entitled to administer property for the benefit of creditors, or that a composition or liquidation for the benefit of creditors has been or is about to made, he:

-destroys, removes, conceals, encumbers, transfers, or otherwise deals with any property with intent to defeat or obstruct the claim of any creditor, or otherwise to obstruct to operation of any law relating to administration of property for the benefit of creditors

-knowingly falsifies any writing or record relating to the property

-knowingly misrepresents or refused to disclose to a receiver or person entitled to administer property for the benefit of creditors, the existence, amount or location of the property, or any information which the actor could be legally required to furnish in relation to such administration

Receiving deposits in a filing financial institution: An officer, manager or person directing or participating in the direction of financial institution commits a misdemeanor of the second degree if he receives or permits the receipt of a deposit, premium payment or other investment in the institution knowing that:

-due to financial difficulties the institution is about to suspend operation or go into receivership or reorganization and

-the person making the deposit or other payment is unaware of the precarious situation of the institution

If the amount involved exceeds $50, the offense is a misdemeanor of the second degree. Otherwise, the offense is a misdemeanor of the third degree.

Misapplication of entrusted property and property of government or financial institutions: a person commits an offense if he applies or disposes of property that has been entrusted to him as a fiduciary, or property of the government or of a financial institution, in a manner which he knows is unlawful and involves substantial risk of loss or detriment to the owner of the property or to a person for whose benefit the property was entrusted. The offense is a misdemeanor of the second degree if the amount involved exceeds $50. Otherwise, the offense is a misdemeanor of the third degree.

Securing execution of documents by deception: A person commits a misdemeanor of the second degree if, by deception, he causes another to execute any instrument affecting, purporting to affect, or likely to affect the pecuniary interest of any person.

Insurance fraud: A person can commit this offense in several ways. Only a few are outlined below. A person commits an offense if the person does the following:

-knowingly and with the intent to defraud a State or local government agency files or presents to the government agency a document that contains false, incomplete or misleading information concerning any fact material to the agency’s determination in approving or disapproving a motor vehicle insurance rate filing, insurance transaction or other action which is required or filed in response to an agency’s request.

-knowingly and with the intent to defraud any insurer, presents any statement forming a part of, or in support of, a claim that contains any false, incomplete or misleading information concerning any fact or thing material to the claim.

-knowingly and with the intent to defraud any insurer, assists, solicits or conspires with another to prepare or make any statement that is intended to be presented to any insurer in connection with, or in support of, a claim that contains any false, incomplete or misleading information concerning any fact or thing material to the claim, including information which document or supports an amount claimed in excess of the actual loss sustained by the claimant.

-knowingly benefits, directly or indirectly, from the proceeds derived from a violation of this offense due to the assistance, conspiracy or urging of any person.

-borrows or uses another person’s financial responsibility or other insurance identification card or permits his financial responsibility or other insurance identification card to be used by another, knowingly and with intent to present a fraudulent claim to an insurer.

The offenses listed above constitute a felony in the third degree if one is found guilty. The court may, in addition to any other sentence authorized by law, sentence a person convicted of violating this section to make restitution, as in, compensate the injured party.

Identity theft: Identity theft is a form of fraud or cheating of another person’s identity in which someone pretends to be someone else by assuming that person’s identity, typically in order to access resources or obtain credit and other benefits in that person’s name.

A person commits the offense if he possesses or uses, through any means, identifying information of another person without the consent of that other person to further any unlawful purpose.

Each time a person possesses or uses identifying information in violation of the offense constitutes a separate offense under this section. However, the total values involved in offenses under this section committed pursuant to one scheme or course of conduct, whether from the same victim or several victims, may be aggregated in determining the grade of the offense.

An offense is classified depending on the value of any property, services obtained, or other factual circumstances:

Value Classification
$1-$1,999.99 Misdemeanor 1
$2,000 or more Felony 3
If offense is a third or subsequent (value is irrelevant) Felony 2
If offense is in furtherance of a criminal conspiracy (value is irrelevant) Felony 3

When a person commits an offense and the victim is 60 years of age or older or a care-dependent person, the grading of the offense will be one grade higher than specified above.