As an experienced federal criminal defense lawyer in Atlanta, Paul Kish has handled hundreds of cases in Georgia and throughout the country that involve economic crimes. Sometimes, a business failure is just that: a failure. Other times, federal prosecutors claim that the person responsible for or involved in the business committed a crime. Having an experienced advocate is often the difference between simple business failure and the business owner or participant going to federal prison.
Economic crimes usually involve some person or business who engages in some form of improper activity that allows the person or company to obtain money or items of value they would otherwise not be entitled to. The number of ways that an activity can be an economic crime are as varied as the number of businesses in the world. The majority of federal fraud cases are prosecuted by use of the mail or wire fraud statutes. Reduced to the basics, an economic crime can violate these laws if there is a 1) scheme to defraud by obtaining money or property though false statements, 2) the false statements concerned a material, or important, fact, 3) the Defendant intended to defraud someone, and 4) either the U.S. mail or interstate wires were used as part of the scheme. The mail can include private carriers like FedEx and UPS. The interstate wires include just about any form of electronic communication, including email, text messages, and any form of social media communication. There are many different situations that can result in a federal prosecution for fraud or some other type of economic crime.
Although the wire and mail fraud statutes are the laws most commonly used in economic crime cases, there are many other laws, statutes and regulations that apply to economic activity, which can then be used in a criminal case. There are other federal laws that apply to specific areas, such as the fields of accounting, banking, healthcare, environmental regulation, the securities industry and situations involving the tax laws. There are also special laws governing various aspects of the Social Security and other federal programs that can result in a federal criminal case. The reach of federal regulation is almost endless, and this regulation can sometimes result in a criminal investigation or criminal case.
These specialized laws also demonstrate another important feature of economic crimes. These cases are often investigated by agents who have a limited focus. For example, an investigator from the Department of Agriculture is limited in what he or she can go after. The activity must in some way be tied to some part of the Department of Agriculture. Although these specialized investigators have a limited focus, they seem pressured to justify their existence and their specialized areas, meaning they seem far more likely to see a crime when a more generalized agency (such as the FBI) might think that the matter is merely a regulatory violation.
More and more economic crime involves internet-based activity. For example, copyright violations are becoming more common as criminal cases, especially if the amount of money is significant. There also is an increase in the internet scam type of cases that have become so common, including email phishing schemes and similar activities in which someone hacks into an email system, poses as a corporate insider, resulting in the company sending money to an account for what seems to be a legitimate purpose, when in fact the fraudster is simply waiting to take the money and run. The type of internet-based crimes is only limited by the imagination of those trying to engage in some form of fraud through computer communication.
Other economic crimes are more old fashioned: theft and embezzlement. For the most part, stealing is only a federal crime if there is some connection to the federal government, or the activity is part of a scheme carried out through interstate commerce, usually by use of the mail or intestate wires.
Bribery is also an economic crime that is prosecuted from time to time in federal court. Unless the person receiving the bribe is a federal employee, the connection to the federal government needs to be established some other way in most bribery cases. One increasingly common method is to use the “honest services” theory, which is a subset of mail and wire fraud cases. Under this theory, it is a federal crime to bribe a local government official because that person has sold the intangible right to his honest services. Congress says that a scheme to defraud another out of someone’s honest services is just another form of mail or wire fraud.
Economic crimes are complicated, complex, and difficult to defend for any but the most experienced criminal defense lawyer. Paul Kish is an Atlanta Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer who has handled hundreds of these cases. Call him if you are facing such a case.