Justice Department data collected and analyzed by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse indicate something surprising: federal prosecutions for white collar crime are down 35.7 percent over five years ago.
While not all so-called white collar crimes are prosecuted by the federal government, it is extremely common. Some examples of white collar crimes include:
- Mail and wire fraud
- Check fraud/check kiting
- Credit card fraud
- Identity theft
- Money laundering
- Insurance fraud
- Securities fraud
According to the clearinghouse, there were 337 new white collar cases filed by the Department of Justice in January. Of those, 42 were misdemeanors, petty offenses or minor enough to go before a magistrate judge instead of a federal district court judge.
The most common lead charge in the magistrate proceedings was aggravated identity theft, which accounted for 26.2 percent of the filings. Otherwise, the most common lead charge was “fraud by wire, radio or television.” The researchers said that wire fraud has been the most common white collar charge over the last five years.
Looking at January alone, the jurisdiction leading the way with the greatest number of white collar prosecutions was the Southern District of Illinois. That was followed by the Southern District of New York, which handles many Wall Street cases.
Are white collar crime prosecutions tapering off?
That’s not clear. The January 2019 data may not be representative of a trend. The decision to prosecute depends on many factors, not least of which is the number of federal investigations in the pipeline. We simply cannot conclude that the Justice Department has intentionally drawn down the number of white collar crime prosecutions.
If you are under investigation for a financial, white collar or federal crime, you should seek out experienced criminal defense counsel as soon as possible. Ideally, your lawyer would get involved as soon as you suspect an investigation may be happening, as there are a number of steps your attorney can take that may mitigate the damage — or even prevent charges from being filed at all.