White collar crime does not refer to one single offense and doesn’t only apply to those that work on Wall Street. Rather, white collar crimes generally include a myriad of non-violent financial crimes from securities fraud, embezzlement, bribery, money laundering, identity theft, tax fraud, forgery, etc.
Securities Fraud (N.J.S.A. 2C:41-1a(1)(p))
Securities fraud N.J.S.A. 2C:41-1a(1)(p) involves the offering, sale, or purchase of securities when such activities violate New Jersey law. Securities are any proof of ownership or debt that has been assigned a value and is able to be sold. For the holder, a security represents and investment as an owner, creditor or rights to ownership on which the person hopes to generate a profit (stocks, bonds, etc.).
Embezzlement (N.J.S.A. 2C:20-3)
New Jersey does not list embezzlement specifically within its statutes, however, it is included under theft (N.J.S.A. 2C:20-3). To prove that the defendant is guilty of embezzlement, the State must prove that:
- Property was lawfully entrusted to the defendant by someone with proper authority to do so
- The property was entrusted to the defendant because a relationship of trust existed
- The defendant then converted the property in such a way that undermined the trust for which was the foundation of the original entrusting of the property
- The defendant intended to convert the property in such a way to deprive the owner of the property, even for a short period of time
While still a form of theft, a key difference between embezzlement and theft, is the fact that at one point, the property was lawfully and rightfully entrusted prior to any illegal activity taking place. An example of this would be if an employee used his employer’s bicycle every morning for the purpose of getting coffee for the office. However, one day instead of using the bicycle for the short errand, the bicycle was never given back to the employer. While the defendant did not technically “steal” the bicycle because the employer initially gave permission for its use, and thus lawful and rightful possession of the bicycle was given, the defendant did “embezzle” the bicycle because they used the bicycle beyond the scope of the original permission. A charge of embezzlement cannot be proven unless it can be shown that the property was entrusted by the owner to the defendant because a relationship of trust existed. A relationship of trust usually exists in a professional setting, such as an employer and employee relationship.
Using the above example, the reason the employer allowed their property, the bicycle, to be used by the employee was because a relationship of trust was established by way of the fact that a trustful employer/employee relationship existed. It is unlikely that the property owner would allow just anyone to use their bicycle. Rather, because the employer sees the employee each day and trusts the employee to carry out assigned duties, the employer likely felt an element of security in allowing the employee to borrow their possession. To prove embezzlement, it must be shown that the defendant had the requisite intent to defraud the property owner.
Commercial Bribery and Breach Of Duty to Act Disinterestedly (N.J.S.A. 2C:21-10)
A person is guilty of commercial bribery (N.J.S.A. 2C:21-10) if they solicit, accept, or agree to accept any benefit as consideration for knowingly violating or agreeing to violate a duty of fidelity that they owe.
A duty of fidelity applies to:
- Being the agent, partner, or employee of another
- Being a trustee, guardian, or fiduciary of another
- Being a lawyer, physician, accountant, appraiser, or other professional adviser or informant
- Being an officer, director, manager, or other participant in the direction of the affairs of an incorporated or unincorporated association
- Being a labor official (including any duly appointed representative of a labor organization or any duly appointed trustee or representative of an employee welfare trust fund)
- Being an arbitrator or other disinterested adjudicator or referee
Therefore, If a person falls into any of these definitions and they act improperly when it comes to their duty of fidelity or violate it outright, there is a high likelihood that they will be charged with commercial bribery.
If a defendant is found guilty of commercial bribery, the harshness of the penalty will be dependent upon the value of the bribe.
- Value of more than $75,000 equals a second degree crime with a potential penalty of imprisonment between five and 10 years and a fine of $150,000
- Value exceeding $1,000 but is less than $75,000 equals a third degree crime with a potential penalty of imprisonment between three and five years and a fine of $15,000
- Value less than $1,000 equals a fourth degree crime which carries a potential penalty of up to 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine
Money Laundering (N.J.S.A. 2C:21-25)
In New Jersey, a person is guilty of money laundering (N.J.S.A. 2C:21-25) if they transport or possess property known or which a reasonable person would believe to be derived from criminal activity or engages in a transaction involving property known or which a reasonable person would believe to be derived from criminal activity with the intent to promote the criminal activity. Money laundering can be categorized between first and third degrees depending upon the value of the money being laundered.
Forgery (N.J.S.A 2C:21-1)
In New Jersey it is against the law to make an unauthorized writing that purports to be the writing of another individual. Forgery (N.J.S.A. 2C:21-1) is mostly seen in the following forms:
- A person alters or changes any writing that was made by another, without permission to do so
- A person makes, completes, issues, or performs any other act with writing with intent to defraud
- A person utters a writing with the knowledge that it was forged
Forgery is considered to be a second, third or fourth degree crime depending upon the value of the crime. For example, if a person writes a forged check in the amount of $75,000 or more, they could face up to 10 years in prison and a $150,000 fine for a second degree crime. If the check was for less than $75,000 but more than $1,000, they could face up to five years in prison and a $15,000 fine for a third degree crime. If the check was for less than $1,000, they could face up to 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine for a fourth degree offense.