Federal Crimes

Common White-Collar Crimes and Their Defense Strategies

White-collar crimes are non-violent, financially motivated offenses typically committed by individuals, businesses, or government employees. White-collar crimes are unique charges because, unlike crimes involving harm or direct confrontation, they require concealment, underhanded behavior, and violations of public trust, all of which are much more difficult to prove for state and federal courts. 

Defending white-collar crime cases requires a highly specialized background in federal and criminal law, the kind that only the best Fort Worth/Dallas federal criminal defense attorney will possess. 

Frank Sellers and the Dallas white-collar crime lawyers at Sellers Law Firm know how to defend those accused of complex white-collar crimes. They have won high-stakes white-collar cases for clients in tough spots before, and they will do it again. Frank’s business school background gives him a leg up in complex financial cases, but his record of success speaks for itself. 

Call Sellers Law Firm today at (817) 928-4222 and ask us to fight for you. Check out our Notable Victories to see what kind of cases we win for our clients. 

Why do they call it white-collar crime?

The term “white-collar crime” was coined by sociologist Edwin Sutherland during a presidential address to the American Sociological Association in 1939. Sutherland used this phrase to describe crimes committed by individuals in higher social classes and more respected professions. He argued that unlike “blue-collar” crimes, which he associated with manual labor and therefore usually physical harm, white-collar crimes were characterized by deception, fraud, and abuses of power. 

He argued that the perpetrators of white-collar criminality were typically individuals in positions of trust, such as business executives, government officials, and professionals like doctors or lawyers, and that because these crimes often involved complex schemes, they would be harder to detect. 

The most common types of white-collar crime

Because white-collar crime is an umbrella term used to describe a very long list of non-violent, financially motivated crimes, it would be difficult to list every type of white-collar crime here. The white-collar lawyers at Sellers Law Firm, however, have seen a lot of white-collar crime cases over the years, and have put together a list of some of the more common white-collar crime examples we see at our firm. 


Fraud is another umbrella term that is used to describe a host of crimes that involve any sort of deception for financial gain. There are a lot of types of fraud out there, but the most popular ones that we see include:

Generally, people accused of fraud use false information or misrepresent information to obtain money or assets from another party unlawfully. Things like Ponzi schemes, pyramid schemes, and investment fraud that promise investors impossibly high returns can also fall under this category. 

Money laundering

Money laundering is the process of concealing the origins of illegally obtained money, typically by means of transfers involving foreign banks or legitimate businesses. Money laundering can be used to legitimize ill-gotten gains and is often a secondary charge that is added to whichever illegal activity earned the money being laundered. 


Embezzlement involves the misappropriation of funds entrusted to an individual or business for personal or commercial use. Embezzlement often occurs within the structure of a company or larger organization, in which an employee misuses their position to redirect funds for personal gain. Embezzlement can look like skimming cash off the top, manipulating financial records to hide withdrawals, or diverting company assets.

RICO violations

RICO violations are violations of the Federal Racketeering and Corrupt Organizations Act, which can include violent crimes or white-collar crimes, as long as they are carried out within the framework of an illegal organization for profit. 

Some crimes that often constitute RICO violations include:

  • Extortion
  • Fraud
  • Witness tampering
  • Evidence tampering
  • Bribery
  • Counterfeiting
  • Embezzlement
  • Money laundering
  • Distribution of a controlled substance
  • Assault, homicide, or murder

White-collar crime punishments

Sentencing for white-collar crimes is complicated. Depending on the crime committed and the amount of money involved you can expect to face anywhere from a few months to a life sentence in prison. 

You will generally be responsible for financial restitution on top of time spent in jail or prison. A broad overview of what you can expect from jail or prison sentences is as follows:

  • Bank fraud convictions at the federal level can mean up to 30 years in prison, with the mandatory minimum jail time being 18 months. 
  • Mail fraud schemes can land you in prison for up to 20 years.
  • Health care fraud carries a maximum sentence of 10 years with no aggravating factors, 20 years max if a patient suffered serious bodily injury, and the possibility of a life sentence if a patient loses their life.
  • Cybercrime sentencing varies based on the crime committed. Harassment charges can result in 180 days-1 year in state prison, invasive visual recording can mean up to 2 years in state prison, and online solicitation can mean 2-20 years in state prison.
  • Embezzlement punishments will scale based on the amount of money involved:
    • $100 – $750: up to 180 days in jail
    • $750 – $2,500: up to 1 year in jail
    • $2,500 – $30,000: 1–2 years in jail
    • $30,000 – $150,000: 2–10 years in prison
    • $150,000 – $300,000: 2–20 years in prison
    • $300,000+: 2–99 years in prison 

Other than the severity of the crimes committed and the amount of money involved, courts often take into account your criminal history when deciding on the severity of your sentence. First-time offenders are occasionally shown leniency, and courts are sometimes more interested in seeking financial restitution than they are in prison time. 

What is a common defense strategy for most white-collar defendants?

An accusation and arrest are not a conviction. Your attorney is here to ensure that your rights are protected and you are defended throughout a trial and investigation, so make sure you have a good one on your team. While there is no one-size-fits-all defense strategy for white-collar crime cases, there are some strategies that see frequent use in state and federal courts.

  • Lack of intent. Prosecutors must prove that the accused acted willfully or knowingly for many white-collar offenses. If the defense can establish that the actions were accidental or lacked criminal intent, it may weaken the prosecution’s case.
  • Insufficient evidence. Challenging the evidence presented by the prosecution is a fundamental defense strategy. This can involve questioning the reliability of financial records, witness statements, or other pieces of evidence. If the defense can demonstrate that the evidence is insufficient or unreliable, it often creates reasonable doubt for jurors.
  • Entrapment. Entrapment occurs when law enforcement induces someone to commit a crime they would not have otherwise committed. This defense argues that you were coerced or persuaded by law enforcement to engage in the criminal activity. Successfully proving entrapment can lead to the dismissal of charges.
  • Due process violations like illegal search and seizure. If law enforcement obtained evidence unlawfully or violated your constitutional rights during the investigation, it may challenge the legality of the entire investigation. If the court finds that due process was not followed, it may exclude certain evidence from the trial or dismiss the charges.
  • Coercion or duress. This strategy asserts that you engaged in criminal activity due to external pressures or threats that left you with no reasonable alternative. Threats to both your personal safety and professional career can be reasons why your actions may have been made under duress. 
  • No meeting of the minds. Oftentimes, the Government charges people with conspiracy simply based on their association. There is no such thing as simple guilt by association. Unless the Government can show a meeting of the minds on the illegal purpose of a conspiracy, the conspiracy is not criminal.

Additionally, some white-collar convictions will hinge on your having had some form of material financial gain. If your attorney can demonstrate that you did not financially benefit from whatever actions you are being accused of, it may be enough to beat the prosecution.

Accused of white-collar crimes? Call the white-collar crime lawyers at Sellers Law Firm.

White-collar crimes describe a wide array of non-violent, financially motivated crimes committed by people in positions of power or trust — and their defense strategies are just as complex and varied. If you or a loved one has been accused of a white-collar crime you need to hire the best white-collar criminal attorney Dallas/Fort Worth has to offer if you want to hold on to your freedom and your financial security. 

Frank Sellers of Sellers Law Firm has the background and the experience to defend clients accused of complex, high-stakes white-collar crimes. An arrest is not a conviction and all hope is not lost, but you need to move quickly and decisively if you want to protect your freedom and your family. 

Call Sellers Law Firm at (817) 928-4222or contact us online to begin building your defense today!

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