To better protect consumers and business owners, courts have been punishing those who commit white collar crimes more severely. After the banking system in the United States nearly collapsed, the prosecution of Bernie Madoff, Martha Stewart, Enron executives, and many other high-profile cases took center stage. Many executives of large organizations find themselves under unprecedented federal scrutiny.
The term “white collar” was initially used in the 1930s to describe criminal acts that were not violent. Frequently, individuals faced charges of white collar crimes when more serious criminal violations could not be proven. Think of Al Capone’s conviction of tax evasion in 1931.
There are many crimes that are categorized as white collar violations. Most are related to money or property that was the responsibility of an organization’s trusted employee. The most common form of a white collar crime is embezzlement and is often committed by accountants, payroll clerks, and bookkeepers. Depending on the amount of money or the value of property stolen, embezzlement can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor.