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Recent Cases of White Collar Crime

White collar crime is defined by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as "illegal acts characterized by deceit, concealment or violation of trust, which are not dependent upon the application or threat of physical force or violence." The FBI goes on to state that in cases of white collar crime, "individuals and organizations commit these acts to obtain money, property or services; to avoid the payment or loss of money or services; or to secure personal or business advantage."

Cases of white collar crime involve a number of different criminal activities, including, but not limited to, embezzlement, fraud (i.e. insurance, bank, tax, telemarketing, health care), money laundering, forgery and counterfeiting. The majority of cases of White collar crime involve fraud of some kind.

You can't turn on the news today without hearing about another top business executive with legal trouble stemming from some kind of business-related criminal activity. The most high profile case of White collar crime of late involves domestic queen Martha Stewart, who was recently convicted of four counts of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and lying to the government about her sale of more 3,900 shares of ImClone stock, worth $250,000, in December 2001. Stewart's guilt stems from a tip she received from friend and ex-broker Peter Bacanovic, who also received similar white collar crime convictions.

These convictions come on the heels of a number of other recent cases of white collar crime that have shaken the corporate world. In one of the largest cases of corporate corruption in the nation's history, Dennis Kozlowski and Mark Swartz, two chief executives from Tyco International, a manufacturer of health care, fire and security, plastics and electronics products, have been accused of stealing $600 million by selling artificially inflated stock, taking unauthorized bonuses and forgiving loans.

In two other recent cases of white collar crime, John Rigas, founder of Adelphia Communications, his two sons and a former executive are on trial for stealing from the company and hiding $2 billion in debt. Bernie Ebbers, former CEO of WorldCom, has been accused of participation in an $11 billion accounting fraud.

High profile as these defendants may be, these recent cases of white collar crime do not come without punishment. At Stewart's June 2004 sentencing, she is expected to receive at least a year in prison. Her crimes carry sentences of up to five years in prison and fines of $250,000 per count. As for Kozlowski and Swartz, if convicted, both face prison terms of up to 30 years. Although judges often lessen the sentences for cases of white collar crime, they certainly are not above handing down the maximum sentence. In the 2001 case of Kansas City pharmacist Robert R. Courtney, for example, conviction for diluting chemotherapy drugs (an example of health care fraud), resulted in a sentence of between 17 ½ and 30 years in prison, the forfeiting of all of his property and full disclosure of his white crime activities and the criminal activities of all of his associates.

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