Plenty of jokes have been made over the years about white-collar crime. It often is portrayed as a posh resort-style vacation for those who are convicted. While there are plenty of punch lines around the idea of white-collar crime, being charged and convicted of it is no laughing matter. There are hefty fines and prison sentences handed down to those who are found guilty. A white-collar crime charge and conviction can damage an individual’s personal and professional reputation for the rest of their life. If you or someone you love is accused of committing a white-collar crime, it is crucial to contact the experienced attorneys at Cameron & Russell immediately. We can protect and defend your legal rights throughout the entire process.
New Mexico statutes define white-collar crimes as those involving nonviolent offenses motivated by monetary gain. Oftentimes, white-collar crime occurs in a professional business setting, hence the term “white collar.” The term was first coined in 1949 by sociologist Edwin Sutherland who directed it toward the respectable and high social status of most of the perpetrators of such crimes.
Depending on the kind of white-collar offense, a perpetrator could face state or federal charges. Most white-collar crimes involving more than $500 are classified as felonies.
- Fraud – Fraud is the legal definition of a criminal act designed to cheat victims out of money. New Mexico statute 30-16-6 classifies fraud charges based on the total value of the items stolen or the total sum of money that is misappropriated. Petty misdemeanor fraud applies to property valued at $250 or less. The maximum fraud charge is second-degree felony fraud, which applies to amounts of $20,000 or more. Punishments for fraud convictions depend on the amount of money stolen from the victim. They can range from $500 fines and up to six months in jail to multiple years in prison.
- Forgery – Signing another person’s name to a legal document, creating false contracts in someone else’s name, and falsifying records using another person’s signature are all considered acts of forgery in New Mexico. The underlying intent of forgery often is financial gain.
- Embezzlement – Embezzlement is the terminology associated with the theft of money or property from another person after it was entrusted to your care and using it for your purposes. It is a common white-collar crime that is perpetrated most often in places of employment by individuals entrusted with accounting or other financial management of a business. New Mexico fraud statute classifies embezzlement based on the number of funds or the total value of the property stolen. Charges can range from a misdemeanor to a second-degree felony.
Sometimes people are accused of white-collar crimes they did not commit. For example, an accounting error might be grounds for a lawsuit but not necessarily rise to the level of criminal charges. It is in your best interest to contact a criminal defense attorney who is experienced in white-collar crime the minute you learn you may be a suspect. Once you have retained an attorney, they can protect your rights and serve as your official representative during the investigation. All questions and requests for information can go through your legal counsel, who will determine which requests are appropriate and which can be refused.
In the event an investigator would show up at your place of employment or your residence, do not voluntarily offer any information. Some investigators will try the “we just want to talk with you” line on alleged perpetrators to get them to incriminate themselves in a case. It is not your job to help investigators prove their case. It is your job to make sure your rights are protected. We recommend in these situations for clients to invoke their Miranda rights and refer investigators to their legal counsel.
The investigation of white-collar crimes is a notoriously slow process. It often takes months or even years for law enforcement agencies to thoroughly examine materials and collect evidence to support charges. Depending on the level of the alleged crime, multiple state and federal agencies may need to be involved with the investigation. Any time interdepartmental cooperation is required, the red tape can slow things significantly.
Accusations of white-collar crime are serious and should be handled with care. Do not fall into the thinking that they are no big deal or that they will just go away if you ignore them. The worst thing someone accused of a white-collar crime can do is try to navigate their way through the mess without legal representation. Reach out to the team at Cameron & Russell to ensure your rights are protected.