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Galveston White Collar Crimes Lawyer

Galveston White Collar Crimes Lawyer

White Collar Crimes Might Seem Less Serious, But It’s Not

White collar crimes are often perceived by the general public as less serious than violent felonies such as homicide or sexual assault. But in the eyes of the law, white collar offenses are often punished far more severely. After all, even a non-violent crime like fraud or embezzlement can cost innocent victims millions of dollars. So federal and state prosecutors in Texas are eager to “throw the book” at anyone accused of engaging in such activities.

White collar crimes are complex in nature and often difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. This does not mean, however, that you can sit back and hope a white collar charge simply goes away. If you are facing arrest or indictment, you need to be proactive in asserting your constitutional rights. That includes working with an experienced Galveston white collar crimes lawyer.

Tad Nelson & Associates can represent you at each stage of the criminal justice process. This includes advising you during a federal or state criminal investigation into possible white collar crimes. And if you are ultimately charged, we can zealously defend you at arraignment and trial. We can also negotiate with prosecutors on your behalf to see if your case can be resolved through a plea bargain or reduction of charges to a less serious offense.

Our lead attorney, Tad A. Nelson, has special insight into white collar criminal cases from his successful career as a prosecutor. His experience as an Texas assistant district attorney taught him the importance of professional ethics and making sure that every person charged with a crime understands and is able to exercise their constitutional rights. His goal is to provide “big city experience with small-town values” to the people of Galveston.

What Is Considered a “White Collar Crime” in Texas?

The phrase “white collar crime” has been in general usage since the 1930s. It is not a specific criminal offense, but rather a description of non-violent offenses that typically involve money. And while white collar offenses are sometimes categorized as “victimless crimes,” the reality is that there are often multiple victims and institutions–including the government–who lose billions of dollars every year because of such activities.

The most common type of white collar crime is fraud. In the broadest sense, criminal fraud involves using false or deceptive statements to obtain something of value from someone else. Some examples of criminal fraud include:

  • Bankruptcy Fraud: Bankruptcy is designed to give honest debtors a fresh start. But if a debtor intentionally conceals assets or intentionally provides false information during the bankruptcy process, they can be charged with bankruptcy fraud.
  • Disability Fraud: Social Security provides disability insurance to eligible individuals who are no longer able to work due to a serious medical condition. Making false statements or claims in order to obtain disability benefits–or falsely claiming such benefits on behalf of someone else–is classified as disability fraud.
  • Embezzlement: This is a term often used to describe theft by an employee from an employer. For example, if a corporate officer diverts money from the business into their personal account without approval, that is embezzlement.
  • Health Care Fraud: In recent years, health care fraud has become a major focus of federal and state law enforcement efforts. Basically, if a Galveston-area health care provider or patient intentionally deceives an insurer–such as Medicaid–in order to obtain benefits, that is criminal health care fraud.
  • Insurance Fraud: Insurance companies are often quick to allege fraud if they suspect that a policyholder has filed a false or misleading claim. This can include falsely claiming someone died to collect life insurance or even deliberately setting fire to a home to claim benefits under a homeowner’s policy.
  • Identity Theft: Many fraud cases involve someone allegedly using the identity of another person as part of their scheme. For example, a person might use stolen identification information to open a credit card account in the victim’s name and run up substantial charges. Or the perpetrator might file a false tax return to obtain the victim’s tax refund.
  • Mail and Wire Fraud: If a person uses any form of communication, such as the Internet, to advance a “scheme or artifice to defraud,” that is considered wire fraud under federal law. Similarly, mail fraud involves using the United States Postal Service to advance a fraudulent scheme. Many if not most federal white collar criminal prosecutions involve some kind of wire fraud charge.
  • Mortgage Fraud: A person who borrows money to purchase a home can be charged with criminal mortgage fraud or making false statements to a financial institution if they lied about their income or assets if they lied on their loan application. Additionally, industry insiders may face charges related to mortgage fraud if they abuse the process to steal funds from lenders or borrowers.
  • Securities Fraud: Like white collar crime, the term “securities fraud” is a catch-all used to describe a range of illegal activities related to the markets for stocks, bonds, and commodities. Extreme examples of securities fraud would include something like running a Ponzi or pyramid scheme. But it can also involve corporate misconduct such as insider trading.
  • Tax Fraud: While it is not against the law to try and minimize the total income tax you owe by claiming valid deductions and credits, if a person intentionally fails to report income or deliberately fails to pay a validly assessed tax, that is considered criminal tax evasion or tax fraud.

There are many other white collar crimes that include various abuses of government processes for personal or financial gain. Here are a few more examples of cases that we handle:

  • Counterfeiting: While counterfeiting is often connected to using false financial instruments, such as currency, in recent years it has expanded to pursuing criminal charges against individuals accused of selling counterfeit goods–that is, knock-off products that falsely claim to originate from a particular manufacturer or seller.
  • Forgery: A person commits criminal forgery in Texas if they alter, make, complete, execute, or authenticate any writing that falsely purports to to be a genuine item of value, such as money, stamps, credit cards, or government-issued identification cards.
  • Money Laundering: A common element of many white collar crimes is money laundering. This refers to the practice of making funds generated by criminal activity appear to come from a lawful source. This can include using criminal proceeds to fund legitimate businesses.
  • Perjury and Subornation of Perjury: Any false statement made under oath is considered perjury and can be charged as a separate criminal offense regardless of the subject matter. And anyone who “procures” or convinces someone else to commit perjury may also be charged with subornation of perjury.

How Are White Collar Crimes Prosecuted in Texas?

The danger of being charged with a white collar crime is that you may be prosecuted in either state or federal court. While most violent crimes are prosecuted at the state level, the financial nature of most non-violent offenses typically invoke the federal government’s jurisdiction over interstate commerce. To give a simple illustration, if a person is charged with using the Internet to commit wire fraud and communicated with at least one other person outside of Texas, they can be charged by federal prosecutors. Similarly, if the alleged victim of a white collar crime was the federal government–such as in the case of Medicaid fraud–then the United States Attorney’s office will handle the case rather than a local district attorney.

Another consideration is that the value of the property involved in a white collar crime often makes a critical difference in how a case is prosecuted. Under Texas law, a person may only be charged with a misdemeanor if a small amount of property or money was allegedly taken in a crime like forgery or embezzlement. But those charges can be bumped to a felony if a higher amount was involved.

Here is a brief rundown of how white collar theft may be punished in Texas:

  • Class C Misdemeanor: This is the lowest level of criminal charge and applies to cases where the value of the stolen property or services is less than $100. There is no jail time for a Class C misdemeanor, but the defendant will have to pay a fine of up to $500.
  • Class B Misdemeanor: This covers a white collar offense where the value of the stolen property is between $100 and $749. A conviction here carries a maximum jail term of 180 days and a fine of up to $2,000.
  • Class A Misdemeanor: This is the highest non-felony charge in Texas and covers stolen property between $750 and $2,499. The maximum penalty is one year in jail and a fine of $4,000.
  • State Jail Felony: This is the lowest level of felony charge and applies to cases where the stolen property is valued between $2,500 and $29,999. A state jail felony also applies to all cases where a defendant has at least two prior theft convictions. The maximum penalty is between 180 days and 2 years in jail and a $10,000 fine.
  • Third-Degree Felony: This covers cases where the value of the stolen property is between $30,000 and $149,999. The maximum penalty is between 2 and 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
  • Second-Degree Felony: This covers cases where the value of the stolen property is between $150,000 and $299,999. The maximum penalty is between 2 and 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
  • First-Degree Felony: Any form of theft or criminal fraud that results in a loss of $300,000 or more is classified as a first-degree felony, the highest degree of non-capital crime in Texas. The maximum penalty for such an offense is between 5 and 99 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

A person charged with a white collar crime in the federal system often faces far stiffer sanctions–as high as 20 years in prison in some cases. But the federal courts also rely on a complex set of sentencing guidelines that take into account a number of factors, such as the nature of the crime, the defendant’s prior history, and other aggravating or mitigating circumstances.

In addition to possible fines and prison time, anyone convicted of a white collar crime may face the following additional sanctions:

  • Restitution: This is an order, issued as part of a criminal sentence, requiring the defendant to compensate the victims of their crimes.
  • Forfeiture: In both federal and state prosecutions, the government can seize any property that was involved in criminal activity or acquired through the use of the proceeds from a crime.
  • Civil Rights: Even after completing a prison sentence for a white collar crime, a person still faces a number of restrictions on their civil rights in Texas, including the right to own a firearm, hold certain professional licenses, and vote in elections.
  • Employment: Many Texas employers are reluctant to hire people convicted of white collar crimes, even misdemeanors, as a conviction raises concern about the person’s trustworthiness and honesty.
  • Civil Lawsuits: White collar crime victims often file separate civil lawsuits against defendants seeking monetary damages. A criminal conviction can make it much easier to prove these civil cases.

Contact Tad Nelson & Associates Today

A white collar criminal charge is not a traffic ticket. It is not something you should attempt to defend against on your own. Indeed, white collar cases are often quite complex and require a deep understanding of not just the law, but also the process of building a case.

At Tad Nelson & Associates, we can handle every aspect of your defense, starting even before you are formally charged. We can help explain the process to you at each step and advise you of all of your options. We are prepared to defend you before a jury–but we can also negotiate a potential plea bargain with the prosecution if that makes sense for your case.

Whatever your situation, we are ready and willing to assist you. Contact us today online or by telephone so we can set up an initial consultation.