How Do Prosecutors Prove Financial Crimes?
Financial crimes are non-violent and often happen to good people who make mistakes. They are also known as white-collar crimes. (The term “white-collar” comes from perpetrators of these crimes working in offices and wearing shirts with a collar.) Prosecuting these crimes is different from other criminal defense cases. A Franklin criminal defense lawyer from the Law Offices of Adrian H. Altshuler & Associates knows that these charges affect people who are factually innocent and will use various strategies to ensure their freedom.
Defining financial crimes
Financial crimes typically involve acts of fraud – the “intentional perversion of truth in order to induce another to part with something of value or to surrender a legal right.” Among the more common are:
- Securities fraud, which deceives investors (like a Ponzi scheme)
- Insurance fraud, which deceives insurance companies (like committing arson to claim the insurance payout)
- Check fraud, which can include writing bad checks
- Mail fraud, which can involve ANYTHING that goes through the mail service
- Forgery and counterfeiting money, checks, works of art, etc.
- Credit card fraud, a form of identity theft
- Gambling fraud, such as gaining access to someone’s online gaming account
- Telemarketing fraud, where someone poses as a company (or the IRS) to get access to accounts
- Internet fraud, which can run the gamut of identity theft to phishing scams and more
Another type of financial fraud is embezzlement, which is the appropriation of property or money by an entity entrusted with the items. This issue is unique because the cash and stolen property were legally in possession of the person who was allegedly embezzling it. Typically, it is within their job duties to access the money or property.
The thing about white-collar financial crimes that makes them different from, say, burglary or shoplifting is how a prosecutor goes about proving they occurred. It’s one thing to say, “We found a stolen TV among the accused’s possession.” It’s quite another to show that stock losses were actually an act of securities fraud as opposed to changes in a fluctuating market, or just a bad investment.
Building a case against a person accused of financial crimes
Step One: Proving the transaction took place
The prosecution must prove two critical elements in a financial crime, the first being transaction. There must be evidence of a financial transaction, whether you performed it or not. The prosecution must prove that you participated in some manner to execute the transaction, such as a sale, loan, gift, or transfer. This is typically done by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation or a federal agency, which builds a case against you in the same way all cases are built: doing background checks, reviewing financial statements, and finding supposed links between you and the transaction.
Step two: Proving you are benefiting from the transaction
They’ll look for anomalies – like a sudden influx of money or stocks – as well as your spending habits. They’ll look at your social media, too. A person who suddenly starts posting pictures of lavish European vacations but whose employment position doesn’t square with expenses may end up outing him or herself.
Step Three: Proving intent to commit a crime or defraud
Another critical element the prosecution must prove is intent. The prosecutor will need to show evidence that you intended to take the money or property and use it illegally. They need to show that you knew the assets were part of illegal activity or that you purposely engaged in criminal activity. To do this, they may interview your boss or your friends and coworkers, or even set up surveillance. Even if your initial intent was not necessarily to defraud, but you ended up getting wrapped up in someone else’s scheme, you can still be prosecuted. Remember – Bernie Madoff started off as a legitimate and extremely well-respected trader before launching the biggest Ponzi scheme in history. (And it was his own son who turned him in.)
Common defenses in financial crime cases
There are legal strategies that can lead to charges being dropped or reduced. The first strategy is to file effective legal motions. These pre-trial motions are requests for the court to take action on one specific issue. The most common motions we will file are motions to dismiss or a motion to suppress evidence. When we file a motion on your behalf, we will provide evidence to support that motion and convince the judge to accept the motion.
In every criminal case, evidence is the basis for proving a person’s innocence. During an investigation, the prosecution will gather evidence against you; The more evidence they collect, the more charges they will try to add. There are different ways to look at the evidence, and while the prosecutor believes it will harm your case, a defense lawyer can have a different view that helps your defense. Additionally, we can look at the evidence collection process to ensure that a client’s rights have not been infringed, while collecting evidence of our own that may prove your innocence.
Understand that the scope of financial crimes is different from other criminal cases. Think about our earlier example. A person accused of stealing a TV has harmed the owner of that TV, but no one else. Fraud, however, can involve multiple parties. If it crosses state lines, it becomes a federal matter. These cases can take a very long time to build and prosecute, too. You need a criminal defense lawyer who can refute and/or suppress evidence against you, and plant doubt in the jury’s mind if the case goes to trial.
You need a Franklin financial crimes criminal defense lawyer from the Law Offices of Adrian H. Altshuler & Associates who knows the law and can defend you during this difficult time. Financial crime cases will often go to trial, and you need a lawyer willing and ready to protect you before a financial crimes judge. Call our office at 615-977-9370, or submit our contact form to schedule an appointment today in Franklin, Columbia, or Brentwood.