In California, White-collar crimes involve the crimes committed by professionals in a non-violent way for financial gain. The crimes may involve different amounts of money, starting from small amounts to millions of US dollars. The crimes include money laundering, Extortion, Fraud crimes, Bribery, Perjury, Pyramid schemes, among other crimes.
The penalties for the crimes vary depending on the nature of the crimes and your prior criminal records. The penalties are harsh and include long jail terms and heavy fines. That’s why you need to seek legal assistance from an aggressive criminal defense lawyer immediately after your arrest.
At Chula Vista Criminal Attorney, our attorneys will build a solid defense and negotiate with the court to help you walk out of jail. The attorneys are well versed with California white-collar crimes. So, if the law enforcement officers arrest you, don't hesitate to contact our attorneys right away.
Types of White Collar Crimes in California
In California, there are several white-collar crimes. You face charges for white-collar crime when you perform an act that would lead to unnecessary benefits to yourself as you may result in harm to another person. Two main motives are likely to drive you to white-collar crime. The motives include the need to evade criminal liability and financial gain. The crimes vary in terms of penalties. The following are the common white-collar crimes in California:
Extortion – California PC 518
Extortion involves using threats or force intended to make somebody else give up their money or property or use force or threats to make a public officer neglect their duties. The use of threats means an offense is committed without even causing injuries or force to the victims. For the court to consider you used force, it must show you demanded a certain amount of money or used threatening words.
Extortion by Signature – PC 522
It involves obtaining a signature from another person to any instrument or paper where it allows them to transfer charge, debt, or demand. The crime is punished similarly as though delivery of that charge, debt, or demand were obtained.
Extortion in Writing – PC 523
Extortion may also be carried out through written threats as outlined under California PC 523. Extortion using a threatening letter requires the victim to sign a check or document.
What the Prosecutor Must Prove in Extortion Charge
Before facing conviction for the crime, the prosecution team must prove the following elements:
- You unlawfully threatened to cause injuries to the alleged victim.
- You threatened to accuse the alleged victim of a crime when they failed to act in your favor.
- The force or threat led to the victim consenting to your demands.
- You threatened to expose the plaintiff’s secrets which could lead to personal injury.
- The use of force or threats led to the alleged victim's compliance with your demands.
- After using the force or threat, you aimed to apply the created fear to take the victim’s money or property.
The Potential Penalties for Extortion
Under California laws, extortion is a felony offense. If you have a felony charge, you face one and above years in jail. However, a federal felony is grouped into four classes. Each group increases the sentence based on the severity of the offense. The last class of felony carries a punishment of 3 years in a state jail.
A felony charge will also attract a criminal record. But with the help of your criminal defense attorney, you will remove the charge through expungement. Under California, PC 1203.4 allows you to file a petition for the criminal record expungement.
Can You Fight Extortion Charge in California?
With the help of your criminal defense lawyer, you may still fight the extortion charge. The attorney will build a strong defense to challenge the evidence provided by the prosecution team. The following defense will help you fight extortion charges:
- The acts which led the plaintiff to part with their property or money were not unlawful.
- The extortion accusations were false.
Embezzlement - PC 503
You commit California PC 503 when you take property entrusted to you by someone else. Taking another person's property entrusted to you is illegal. When a public official takes a property they were entrusted with; they face embezzlement charges. Before you face conviction for the crime, the prosecutor must prove the following:
- The owner entrusted their property to you.
- The plaintiff did so since they trusted you.
- The defendant converted the property in question for their benefit.
- When you embezzled the alleged property, you aimed to deprive the owners of the use or enjoyment of the property's use.
Embezzlement is a wobbler in California. Therefore, you might face conviction for either misdemeanor or felony. When charged with embezzlement misdemeanor, you face imprisonment in jail for up to one year. Again, you might pay fines up to $1,000. For a felony conviction, you will serve prison time from two to three years.
The potential defenses for embezzlement include a reasonable claim or belief you were entitled to the property. Again, you may claim you did not intend to take the property from the owner. For instance, you are taking company property without permission to be serviced. Here, You did not commit embezzlement.
You commit fraud crimes when you obtain undeserved benefits that could lead to any form of harm or loss to another person. California's common fraud crimes are insurance fraud, financial fraud, real estate, mortgage fraud, identity theft, etc.
Insurance fraud involves receiving payment and benefits from an insurance organization. It comes in varied forms in California. An example of insurance fraud includes automobile fraud crime. Automobile fraud offenses include trying to obtain funds from insurance entities in a fraudulent way. For instance, you may plan an accident or report to the police your vehicle is stolen to receive a deserved compensation. Again, you may exaggerate the cost of your vehicle insurance claim, services which, however, were not offered.
Health Care Insurance Fraud
Under PC section 550( a), examples of fraudulent activities include billing patients for medical services that have not occurred and booking for a single service two or more times. An example of health care insurance fraud is when doctors prescribe certain drugs to patients to receive kickbacks.
Unemployment fraud involves increasing, denying, or reducing an unemployment insurance benefit. Again, you may commit fraud by exaggerating your job search efforts. When you present false information on termination of your employment, you commit unemployment fraud. You may also commit the crime by lying concerning your wages or avoiding contributing to the insurance program.
Welfare and institution code section 10980 of California forbids receiving welfare benefits you don't deserve. You violate California 10980 when you increase or attempt to receive welfare benefits that you don't deserve. Again, you may engage in welfare fraud by attempting to secure welfare benefits fraudulently.
California Workers Compensation Fraud
Workers' compensation helps workers receive medical care and other benefits that relate to injury or death. Under California insurance section b1871.c it is a crime to make a false statement to receive worker compensation. Workers' compensation fraud involves exaggerating the extent of injury or faking an injury to seek compensation. Again you may commit the crime when you claim a non-work injury is work-related. You may also face charges for your failure to expose a previous injury and later use it in claiming workers' compensation.
Penalties for Fraud Crime
In California, many fraud crimes are wobblers. The law punishes the offenders with either a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the nature of your case and your criminal history. The potential fraud crimes defenses include the police entrapping you, having no Fraud intent, and being falsely accused.
Forgery - California PC 470
Forgery involves using false, unauthorized, or altered documents with the intent to defraud another person. You commit forgery in varied ways in California. They include;
- When you counterfeit or forge on other people's signature and write in their document.
- By signing someone's name without their consent.
- When you alter or corrupt a legal document, including a will or conveyance.
- When you falsify or alter documents like bank bills, checks, contracts, money orders, etc.
To face conviction for forgery, the prosecution team needs to prove the following.
- You signed in on another person's behalf or document without permission.
- You were aware that you were not given authority to sign.
- When signing the document, you had the intent to defraud.
Under California Law, Forgery is a wobbler offense meaning it may attract felony and misdemeanor charges. The court will consider your criminal history and the amount of loss the victim suffered to determine how you will be charged. When charged with a misdemeanor, you face imprisonment in jail for up to one year. Again, you will pay restitution to the victim. Your crime will be considered a felony when the loss to the victim exceeds $950. Penalties for felonies include imprisonment in jail for up to three years and paying restitution to the victim.
The possible defenses for forgery include:
- Lack of intent to defraud
- Police Entrapment
- Lack of legal capacity, and the required knowledge to commit the crime.
Theft by False Pretenses
California PC 484 involves defrauding another person to obtain title to their property or money through a false presentation. The prosecution needs to prove the following elements.
- You deceive the money owner by pretense, Knowing and intentionally.
- You committed the act to deceive the owner or another person into possessing or owning the property.
The property owner granted the defendant owner of the property because they depended on pretense. The charges you face depend on the court's decision. The court may prosecute the criminal case, either petty theft or grand theft, based on the severity of the offense.
Petty theft attracts imprisonment for half a year in county jail and payment of fines up to $1,000. Again, the severity of the offense determines whether you face charges for misdemeanor or felony. When you face misdemeanor charges, you face imprisonment in jail for up to one year. Fines up to $1,000 accompany the imprisonment. For felony offense by pretense, you serve imprisonment from 16 months up to 3 years. You may also pay fines up to $10,000.
Misappropriation of Public Funds - California PC 424
California 424 PC involves someone in a public office obtaining and using public funds for personal use or giving them to other people for their use without authority. There are several forms of misappropriation of public funds. They include profiting or loaning public funds without authority, Creating false accounts to benefit from public funds, and Appropriating public funds without authority.
You can be charged for violation of PC 424 when you misuse public funds for your benefit.
Public officers are elected officials, appointed officials, lawyers, etc. Loaning public funds without authority is the misappropriation of public funds. To prove you guilty of 424 PC, the prosecution team must prove the following:
- You are an officer of a state or government entity or entrusted with public funds.
- You appropriated public funds for someone's or your use.
- You appropriated the funds without the authority of law.
- You are not authorized to loan public money.
- You were aware your conduct was prohibited.
The offense is prosecuted as a felony. The penalties you face include imprisonment in state prison from two to four years. Again you pay fines up to $10,000. After you are convicted for violating PC 424, you will not hold a public office in the future. California laws allow you to use varied defenses for PC 424, including not knowing your actions were prohibited. The amount you took was minimal, and the funds used do not qualify to be public.
Money Laundering – California PC 186.10
Money laundering involves money obtained illegally and cleaning the dishonest sources. Then the process permits the illegally acquired money to be lawfully used. The process includes three main steps, namely:
- The defendant converts the illegally acquired money into a source that looks lawful. The process may also involve depositing the illegally obtained money into a different entity. The entity then serves as a middleman between the illegitimate funds and legitimate spending.
- The defendant used a sequence of transactions to hide the unlawful money sources. It might also involve buying properties or transferring the money across different accounts.
- The illegally obtained money re-enters the state’s economy. The owner of the money might start a legal business.
Federal Money Laundering Laws
In the US, money laundering is both a state and a federal offense. Under federal laws, ist unlawful to engage in either form of money laundering:
- Intentionally transacting money obtained from illegal sources to promote a crime or hide the money source. If convicted of the crime, you will face:
- Pay twice the laundered money or $500,000(whichever is huge)
- Remain behind bars in a federal jail for 20 years.
- Intentionally attempting or transacting more than $10,000 with money obtained from criminal conduct. The offense will carry ten years in federal jail.
Penalties of Money Laundering
All forms of money laundering are California wobblers. It means the court will charge you with a misdemeanor or felony. The penalties will vary based on your previous criminal records and the nature of the case. When the court considers the offense a misdemeanor, it will impose the following penalties:
- Paying a fine that does not exceed $1,000.
- Spending a year in county jail.
Alternatively, a California Penal Code 186.10 will carry the following penalties:
- Face a fine twice the laundered amount or $250,000 ( whichever is huge)
- A jail term between 16 months, two years, or three years
How You Can Fight a Money Laundering Charge
Since money laundering cases may attract severe penalties, you must work with a criminal defense lawyer. The attorney will help you gather sufficient evidence, build a strong defense and challenge the evidence provided by the prosecution team. The following are the potential defenses of extortion charge:
- You didn’t have intent.
- You acted due to police coercion.
- The money was insufficient for illegal misconduct.
- Police misconduct during your arrest.
Bribery involves giving money or anything valuable to a public official intending to corrupt or influence their actions and decisions. Both the person giving and receiving the bribe will face bribery charges. Bribes don't necessarily have to be in monetary form; they can be in the form of promises or gifts. To face conviction for the crime, the prosecution team should prove the following features of the offense:
The prosecutor must show you gave something of value such as money, a promise, or a gift to alter your decision.
The prosecutor has to produce enough evidence to show your intentions to bribe.
An Official Matter
The prosecutor should prove that you gave or received a bribe to corrupt or alter an official decision.
In California, bribery occurs in varied categories. They include:
Commercial bribery is defined by PC 641.3 as giving or accepting or receiving money or something whose value is above $250. According to California laws, both the giver and the receiver of commercial bribes will face bribery charges.
Bribery By or With Witnesses
California on PC 137(a) involves bribes given to witnesses to alter their testimony in Court. You face charges for PC 137(a) felony when you offer gifts or money to a witness to influence their testimonies. Again, you face the charges when you use threat or fraud to influence a witness to make a false statement at the witness stand during the case hearing.
Bribery of Judicial Officers PC 92
You violate PC 92 when you offer something of value or money to a Judicial officer to influence their decision in a court case involving you. The judicial officer may also face charges of bribery for accepting something of value from someone else with the intent to influence their decision in official matters.
Bribery of Legislators
California PC 85 involves giving or offering something valuable to a government legislator to receive favor on official matters. Again PC 85 forbids anyone from using menace deceit on legislative officers to give or withhold their votes.
Bribery of or By Executive Officer and Public Employee
You violate PC 68 by giving an executive officer or Public employee a token to influence their decision to favor you in a legal matter. Executive officers include police officers, district attorneys, etc. Public employees include traffic clerks, building inspectors, etc. California penal code 69 prohibits public officials and executives from receiving or asking for valuable items to influence their decision. The penalties for a violation include fines, imprisonment, and disqualification from holding a Public office in the future.
Penalties for Violation of Bribery Laws
When your bribery offense is charged as a misdemeanor, you serve imprisonment in state prison. For a felony bribery offense, you face imprisonment of up to 4 years in prison and forfeiture of office when you are a public official. The penalties also include payment of fines. You pay a fine equal to the amount of the value of the alleged property.
Potential Defenses for Bribery
Facing charges for bribery doesn't mean you will face conviction. You claim you lacked the aim to bribe, it was a mistake, false accusations, you were intoxicated, or it was entrapment by the police. With the defenses, you may be able to beat the charges.
All white-collar crimes in California have harsh penalties. Thus it's highly recommended you consult a defense lawyer immediately after the law enforcement officers arrest you. The attorneys will help investigate your case and build a defense to fight the charges. Our Chula Vista Criminal Attorney attorneys are well prepared to build a solid defense strategy to convince the court. We have experience in representing our clients who face white-collar crimes charges. Contact us at 619-877-6894, and let us begin working on your case.