What Exactly Are “White-Collar” Crimes?

Thanks to all the gangster movies and crime shows on TV, you’ve likely heard of bribery, embezzlement, extortion and Ponzi schemes, but do you know what these types of crimes are and how they are committed? For many people, that answer is no, and that leads them to a criminal lawyer in Denver, CO for help.

White-collar crimes: A brief overview

Edwin Sutherland reportedly coined the term “white-collar crime” in the 1930s to refer to crimes committed by someone who had respect and social status in the course of their job. Since then, this term has grown to represent more than just crimes committed by people with power. It’s now used to refer to many crimes with financial motives.


A person who is trusted with property and steals some or all of that property is embezzling. It’s much like theft, with the difference being that the stolen property is legally accessed or controlled by the person stealing it before it is taken. A delivery driver stealing products they are supposed to deliver, for example, is embezzling. Stockbrokers, financial managers, accountants, office managers, store clerks and bank tellers are all positions in which embezzlement is sometimes seen.

Insider trading

When a person has non-public or confidential information about a company and buys and sells stocks from that company, it’s considered insider trading. In the 1980s, for example, investor Ivan Boesky gave money to corporate officers in exchange for information about what was going on in the corporation, and he used that information to determine when to buy and sell stocks.


When a person receives, solicits, offers or gives something with value in order to influence another person with a legal or public duty, it’s considered bribery. This can lead people to make decisions that are weighed in the favor of the person offering the bribe when those decisions should have been made free of bias.

Common bribery examples include:

• Hiring someone to receive benefits or kickbacks

• Giving doctors money so they will prescribe patients a specific medication

• Offering money, goods or services to a public official to get a contract, get around red tape or receive a license

Evading taxes

In tax evasion, a person is using some sort of illegal means to avoid paying taxes they owe. Corporations and individuals can commit this crime, which reportedly costs the federal government billions of dollars in revenue annually. Common ways to evade paying taxes include reporting less income than one actually made, inflating tax deductions and hiding money in offshore accounts.

Ponzi schemes

A Ponzi scheme is a type of fraud in which a person claims to invest money for clients with promises of returns, but in reality, they’re paying clients with money from other clients. Eventually, these schemes fall apart, leaving the clients in a lurch.

Being charged with a white-collar crime is a serious matter, and it could mean fines, jail time, loss of reputation and other serious consequences. If you’ve been charged with a white-collar crime, contact a lawyer about your case.

Thanks to Richard J. Banta, P.C. for their insight into criminal law and white-collar crimes.