In the beginning of a white-collar criminal investigation, a detective from a particular agency gets assigned to the case. It might be a detective from the FBI, or a local detective from the district’s Crime Division in the case of a local crime.
Typically, the detective will start interviewing people and subpoenaing documents. They will then want to discuss the information with the suspect themselves. The process can take quite a bit of time, depending on the investigation and the detective.
Sometimes, a client will come to me and say, “My friend or my relative just got interviewed. What do I do next?” In that particular case, we know that an investigation has begun, but that doesn’t mean that the investigation will result in an actual indictment. Many times, the best advice is to stay patient and stay vigilant. It is best to know that an investigation could be forthcoming, but that it might not pan out after all.
In that type of case, I tell my clients to be patient and ultimately not to talk about the crime in question. They need to be careful and avoid accidentally incriminating themselves. In particular, I tell them to be wary of what are referred to as “pretext phone calls”. This is when a detective will record a phone call made by a relative, friend, neighbor, or anyone who would have cause to call the suspect without raising suspicion. These recorded calls are made in order to extract additional information from the suspect, to support the detective’s investigation. If I believe the investigation has reached the stage where the detective might be setting up pretext calls, I will tell my client not to talk about the issues and circumstances around the case and the alleged crime with anyone, even trusted friends and family members. This is all part of remaining careful and patient.
What are Some Examples of White-Collar Crimes or Economic Crimes That Happen at the State Level?
At the state level, we see three types of crimes most commonly:
- Writing bad checks
- Illegally running companies
- Tax crimes (i.e., failing to pay taxes or paying the wrong amount of taxes)
White-collar crime on the state level deals mostly with people not following the particular rules and regulations from the state regarding reporting, whether it’s on taxes, checks, or businesses.
On the federal level, most white-collar crime really just comes down to issues of state that occurred over state lines. That is, one of the main differentiations between state and federal white-collar crimes, and one of the main ways that a white-collar crime becomes a federal matter, is if it occurs across multiple states.
Most people have heard the term “interstate commerce.” This means any business that occurs in more than one state. Essentially, if a crime effects or utilizes interstate commerce, then the federal government can get involved.
Another way that the federal government can get involved with white-collar crime is through tax matters. Just as the state government can investigate and get involved with issues with state taxes, the federal government can investigate and get involved with issues with federal taxes. Someone who violates a federal tax law or procedure may be charged with federal tax evasion or some sort of RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization) statute.
Generally, I have seen the federal government get involved when there are issues with business across the state lines, business contracts across state lines, or federal/interstate taxes. They might also get involved if there is a failure to pay a financial obligation across state lines, or when there is sort of a surety or loan that went wrong. Those are the types of situations that I have been involved with and have assisted clients through.
Are People Accused of White-Collar Crimes Usually Charged as Individuals or as a Part of Their Company or Business?
Exactly who gets charged, and how, depends on each individual case. However, in most civil white-collar cases, an individual or several individuals will be sued in addition to the company. That is, the company itself can be sued AND any person involved in the company’s crimes can be sued.
It is essential to remember that just because you’re the CEO or CFO of a particular company doesn’t mean that the company’s interests are the same as your interests. Therefore, these situations sometimes require separate legal representation for the individuals involved and for the company, especially if the company has independent shareholders.
That type of case may involve a whole host of parties, depending on what the actual allegations are.
Who Investigates White-Collar Crimes at the State Level? Who Investigates White-Collar Crimes at the Federal Level?
On the state and local level, white-collar crimes are usually investigated by the appropriately designated units within state and local police departments. These police departments often have a white-collar unit or a financial crimes unit. The detectives in that unit are trained and certified to investigate white-collar and financial crimes. They’re familiar with financial instruments, with the banks, and with bank processes.
The same is true of federal crimes. The federal government has its own departments which function this way. Investigators employ extra scrutiny by dealing with interstate banks and utilizing their subpoena power.
If I Suspect I am Under Investigation for a White-Collar Crime, Should I Talk to Authorities Before They Come to Me?
Absolutely not. If you suspect that you are under investigation, you are definitely not advised to talk to authorities before they come to you.
I think a lot of people believe that investigative agencies are only dotting t’s and crossing i’s in order to rule them out as suspects and clear them. This is especially true if they are innocent of the crime they are being investigated for. They often figure that if they didn’t do what they are being accused of, they ought to be proactive and talk to the police to get everything cleared up. They assume that since they are innocent, the police will be on their side.
However, the truth isn’t exactly that optimistic. Even if you were truly not involved, it’s still always wise to speak to an attorney before ever speaking to authorities.
This is because, just as you hear so often on TV when someone is being read their Miranda Rights, anything you say to the police can and will be used against you. If you speak to the authorities through an attorney, on the other hand, any information you reveal cannot be used against you. This is because the rules of evidence prevent that from occurring.
Therefore, it’s always best to speak to an attorney, and to have the attorney speak with the investigative agency. If it ever becomes absolutely necessary for you to speak to an investigator or detective, then you should only do so through the advice of counsel.
For more information on White-Collar Crimes in Arizona, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (480) 637-0240 today.