White-collar crimes in El Paso, Texas, are criminal offenses that include various non-violent and financially motivated actions. They are fraudulent acts that constitute elements of deception, corruption, theft, concealment, and a breach of trust undertaken for personal financial benefit.
White-collar crimes mainly occur in commercial or corporate spaces. However, advances in digital technology and pervasive internet interconnectivity have widened the scope of white-collar crime in the city. Among the white-collar offenses prosecuted in El Paso are:
- Falsifying information to obtain property or credit (Mortgage, insurance, or credit card fraud): This crime occurs when a person or entity makes false statements in writing about their financial assets and liabilities with the fraudulent intention of obtaining credit, goods, money, or other valuables.
- Possession and use of another person's personal identifying information without their consent (Identity Theft): Under state law, it is illegal to intentionally possess another person's identification information without their consent. Identity theft occurs when someone unlawfully obtains, maintains, transfers, or uses another person's personal identifying information (such as their name, Social Security number, or credit/debit card information) for personal gain.
- Bad checks: A bad check is drawn on an inactive account or one with insufficient funds. It is illegal for anybody to receive services or products or acquire other valuable objects using a bad check while knowing that there are insufficient funds to support such transactions.
- Embezzlement: This crime involves unlawfully taking another person's property to defraud or deprive them. Actions that may count as embezzlement in El Paso include simple acts such as employees skimming cash from the work cash register or more complex investment schemes in which white-collar staff skim money off the top of customers' accounts over a lengthy period. A white-collar worker is someone who performs professional, managerial, or administrative responsibilities. Overall, each time an employee is in charge of handling an employer's assets or products and steals the goods or assets for personal gain, the employee may be charged with embezzlement in El Paso.
- Forgery: This crime involves falsifying a document to defraud a person, financial institution, government, or private enterprise. Examples of unlawful actions, in this context, include forgery of a signature, fabrication or modification of information contained within a legal document or financial instrument, etc.
- Healthcare Fraud (Medicare/Medicaid fraud): This white-collar crime entails providing false or misleading information to a health insurance company, Medicare, or Medicaid to reclaim compensation for healthcare services. Healthcare fraud may take various forms, including charging for services that were not provided, administering unnecessary medical procedures, charging for a more expensive service than the one that was actually performed (upcoding), invoicing each stage of a process as if it were a distinct procedure (unbundling), and many other variants.
Other white-collar crimes in El Paso include cybercrimes, intellectual property crimes, bribery, obstruction of justice, perjury, money laundering, tax evasion, etc.
What are White-Collar Crime Punishments in El Paso, Texas?
The severity of white-collar crime punishment in El Paso, Texas, varies depending on the offense and the monetary value of what was stolen. Also, the sanctions depend on the entities involved and the scale of the crime, white-collar crimes may be punished under state or federal law, and in some cases, under both jurisdictions. Under state law, there are primarily seven categories of white-collar crime for which a person might be charged:
- 1st-degree felonies: white-collar crimes in this category are punishable by a maximum incarceration sentence of life in prison (5 to 99 years) and a maximum fine of $10,000. In El Paso, theft of more than $200,000 is considered a first-degree felony.
- 2nd-degree felonies: white-collar crimes in this category are punishable by a prison sentence ranging from 5 to 20 years and a maximum fine of $10,000. Theft of $100,000 to $200,000 is considered a second-degree felony.
- 3rd-degree felonies: white-collar crimes in this category are punishable by a prison sentence ranging from 2 to 10 years and a fine of up to $10,000. Theft ranging from $20,000 and $100,000 is considered a third-degree felony.
- State jail felony: white-collar crimes in this category are punishable by 180 days to 2 years in state jail, and a maximum fine of $10,000 Theft ranging from $1,500 to $20,000 is considered a state jail felony.
- Class A misdemeanors: White-collar crimes in this category are punishable by a potential term of 1 year in prison and a fine of up to $4,000. Theft of property worth $500 to $1,500 is a Class A misdemeanor.
- Class B misdemeanors: White-collar crimes in this category are punishable by up to 180 days in prison and a maximum fine of $2,000. Theft worth $50 to $500 is a Class B misdemeanor.
- Class C misdemeanor: Criminal offenses in this category are minor criminal offenses. White-collar crimes in this category are punishable by a fine of up to $500 and no jail time. Theft of property less than $50 is considered a Class C misdemeanor.
According to Chapter 12 of the Texas Penal Code, a person may face harsher penalties depending on:
- The nature of the offense
- The accused's criminal history
- Whether the crime was committed against an older adult
- Whether the offense harmed a large number of people
- The value of property used or taken in the commission of the offense.
What does a White-Collar Crime Lawyer do in El Paso, Texas?
White-collar crime lawyers specialize in the resolution of white-collar crime allegations. They serve major corporations, financial institutions, influential business and political personalities, or individuals who are either victims or defendants in a white-collar crime investigation.
White-collar crime attorneys provide clients with legal advice on complying with complex government rules and law enforcement investigations.
White-collar crime lawyers assist victims of these crimes by:
- Providing advice on immediate actions to reduce the impact of the harm caused by a white-collar criminals on their persons and businesses
- Assisting the victim in determining the appropriate next steps to take to safeguard assets and maintain operations
- Aiding in the investigation and preparation of the case against the white-collar criminals. They achieve this by establishing and maintaining channels of communication with the appropriate government and investigative authorities
- Evaluating the possibility of civil lawsuits for the victim to receive compensation
- Assisting with avoiding or reducing bad media coverage of the crime that may have a detrimental impact on a company's operations.
A white-collar criminal attorney will assist a defendant accused of a white-collar crime by:
- Developing and presenting defenses on the defendant's behalf to dismiss or lessen criminal responsibility. This may involve presenting facts, evidence, and arguments before the court to contradict the charges.
- Preventing violations of criminal procedure and defendant’s rights. For instance, compelling testimony or confessions.
- Collaborating with government authorities on any restitution or plea bargain that may be offered to mitigate the severity of the consequences.
White-collar crime investigations are often complicated because they involve substantial financial transactions and extensive paper trails. Therefore, white-collar crime attorneys must possess an extensive and in-depth understanding of the relevant laws, their clients' corporate activities as well as the prosecution's case against them. With this knowledge, they would develop adequate defense strategies. Among the most common defenses are:
- Lack of criminal intent: Prosecutors must establish criminal intent in many white-collar criminal cases to secure a conviction. If the defense attorney proves that the defendant had no criminal intent, the charges may be reduced or dismissed. For instance, suppose an entity makes a significant error on their tax return, and they lacked the criminal intent to commit the offense because the error was accidental. In such cases, lack of criminal intent is a viable defense.
- Entrapment: This defense involves proving that law enforcement authorities induced the commission of the crime. It applies if the defense team can demonstrate that the law enforcement authorities inspired the criminal action by their conduct and how they coerced the defendant. For this defense to apply, the defense attorney must establish that the defendant would not have perpetrated the crime if it were not for the actions of law enforcement authorities.
- Disability: This defense may be asserted if a defendant was unable to understand the nature of the alleged criminal activities because of physical or mental incapacity.
- Intoxication: Demonstrating that a defendant was intoxicated when an alleged crime occurred indicates that the defendant was not in complete control of their actions. Defendants who can demonstrate that they were under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the offense can either assert this as a complete defense to the charges or use the information to bargain for a lesser offense or sentence.
In some cases, the prosecution’s evidence against the defendant may be substantial, and a defense strategy might not be enough to dismiss or reduce the charges. A white-collar criminal lawyer may seek to negotiate a favorable plea deal on the defendant's behalf in such situations.
What is the FCPA in El Paso, Texas?
The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) is a United States law that prohibits American businesses and individuals from paying bribes to foreign officials to advance commercial transactions. The FCPA is separated into two major sections:
- The anti-bribery provisions: This clause makes it a crime for a US citizen or resident to make or propose a corrupt payment to a foreign official to obtain, retain, or conduct business.
- The accounting provisions concerning books, records, and internal control: This section requires issuers to keep correct records and maintain an internal control system. The control system must be capable of giving reasonable assurances that transactions and assets are accounted for according to management's authorization.
An entity violates FCPA rules when they make a payment or offers anything of value to a foreign government official or any other person to influence that person's behavior or decision.
The FCPA is jointly enforced by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Department of Justice (DOJ). Any person or business that violates the FCPA may face criminal prosecution by the DOJ, resulting in imprisonment or a hefty fine. They may also be subject to civil penalties, by the SEC, of up to $500,000 or the amount by which they benefited from the infraction.
The FCPA specifies that companies and other commercial entities may be subject to a fine of up to $2 million for each breach of the anti-bribery provisions. Individuals, such as executives, directors, investors, and agents of corporations, can be fined up to $250,000 and imprisoned for up to five years if they violate the law.
The FCPA provides that businesses and other business organizations may be fined up to $25 million for any violation of the accounting requirements. Individuals may face a fine of up to $5 million and a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.
Although only the DOJ can pursue criminal charges, the FCPA gives the DOJ and the SEC civil enforcement authorities. The DOJ may bring civil actions against domestic businesses (and their officers, employees, or stockholders), and foreign nationals and corporations, for anti-bribery violations committed while in the United States. On the other hand, the SEC may bring civil actions against issuers and their officers, directors, employees, agents, or stockholders for anti-bribery and accounting provisions violations.
A civil penalty of up to $23,011 per infraction may be imposed on corporations and other commercial entities that breach anti-bribery legislation. For each infraction, individuals may also be subject to a civil penalty of up to $23,011 in penalties. The SEC may levy a civil penalty ranging from $103,591 to $1,035,909 per breach of the accounting provisions. Individuals who violate the accounting provision shall be subject to civil fines ranging from $10,360 to $207,183 for each violation.
How to Find a White-Collar Crime Lawyer in El Paso, Texas
Entities seeking white-collar crime lawyers can visit the State Bar of Texas website and use the 'Find A Lawyer' section to locate those in their area. This search engine allows users to seek attorneys based on various parameters such as location, area of practice, law firm, name, and other characteristics. Acquaintances who have dealt with comparable legal situations, such as friends and coworkers, may also recommend trustworthy attorneys.
In addition, the Lawyer Referral and Information Service(LRIS) of the State Bar of Texas can assist interested parties in locating white-collar crime attorneys in El Paso. The LRIS can connect clients with Texas attorneys who specialize in the areas of law relevant to their case. Interested parties can contact the service by phone at (800) 252-9690.
Locally, the El Paso Bar Association's LRIS may connect interested parties with white-collar crime attorneys that practice in the area. Anyone who contacts the service will receive the name and telephone number of an attorney most suited to their requirements once they have stated their situation and supplied specific details. The interested party must then make contact with the attorney to schedule a meeting. Hence, anyone in need of a white-collar criminal defense attorney in the El Paso County region may contact the Lawyer Referral and Information Service (LRIS) by calling (915) 532-7052 between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Engaging the services of a white-collar crime attorney is a process that should be undertaken with caution since the attorney has a significant impact on a defendant's exoneration or a victim's compensation. Because white-collar cases are extremely complex, hiring a licensed attorney with experience defending or prosecuting matters of this nature is crucial. It is also important that the client is comfortable with their services before hiring them.