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Data: Federal white-collar crime prosecutions hit all-time low

New data obtained through the Freedom of Information Act indicate that the federal government has been prosecuting fewer white-collar crimes under this administration than it had done previously. Researchers from Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse found a 35.7-percent dip in the number of cases filed in January over the same period five years ago.

The U.S. Department of Justice, which prosecutes crime at the federal level, filed 337 new white-collar crime prosecutions in January, according to the researchers. Of those, 42 were assigned to magistrate judges, which generally indicates the cases were "petty offenses."

Of those defendants assigned to magistrate judges, 26.2 percent were charged with aggravated identity theft. That charge was the most frequent lead charge in the magistrate proceedings.

Overall, however, the most frequent white-collar charge in January was fraud by wire, radio or television. People accused of a wide variety of fraud schemes are charged with wire, radio or television fraud, and it has been the most common white-collar charge over the last five years.

Southern District of Illinois, Southern District of New York are key players

With its proximity to Wall Street, the federal prosecutor for the Southern District of New York has historically filed a large number of white-collar crime charges. Five years ago, this district's U.S. attorney was focused heavily on prosecuting insider trading and charged the third-largest number of white-collar cases. This year, it was in second place.

In first place this year was the Southern District of Illinois. Per capita, this district filed the largest number of white-collar cases in the nation. That's a jump from No. 51 last year (of 94 federal districts) and No. 30 five years ago.

Federal charges possible for white collar crimes

It's unclear why white-collar crime prosecutions are down during this administration. It's possible there are policy reasons involved, but it could simply be that investigations need to be completed before charges are filed. Federal prosecutors can charge people with serious crimes for white-collar offenses such as:

  • Wire, radio or television fraud
  • Mail fraud and credit card fraud
  • Healthcare, public benefits and other types of fraud
  • Forgery
  • Identity theft
  • Embezzlement
  • Computer crimes/cybercrime
  • Money laundering
  • Securities fraud and insider trading
  • Racketeering

If you even suspect you are under investigation by the federal government, get a lawyer immediately. The sooner a defense attorney becomes involved in a white-collar prosecution, the better. Getting an experienced federal defense attorney involved early could limit the investigation, result in lesser charges or even clear things up so charges are never brought.

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