West Virginia White Collar Criminal Defense Attorney
Getting accused of committing a white collar crime in West Virginia is a huge escalation in what has often been a months-long investigation. Your future is now on the line, as a conviction for a white collar crime can carry prison time, massive fines, and professional sanctions. Worse, many of these offenses – especially serious ones involving the alleged theft of hundreds of thousands of dollars – are prosecuted by federal law enforcement agencies. These are among the most powerful government agencies in the world, with access to copious resources that they will utilize during your case.
Getting the best legal defense team on your side is extremely important.
The Criminal Defense Firm is a group composed entirely of senior-level attorneys and white collar crime defense lawyers. We have extensive experience handling white collar offenses, including those that are prosecuted by the federal government in West Virginia. With our help, numerous defendants have achieved satisfactory results in their case – from drastically mitigated sentences to outright acquittals and dropped charges.
West Virginia White Collar Crimes
A white collar crime is one that is financially motivated but non-violent. This is where the clear definitions of the offense end, though.
The vast majority of white collar offenses are based on fraud. Fraud, however, has been deliberately left vague and amorphous so that law enforcement can convict bad actors who come up with new ways to use fraudulent means to steal assets from other people – if fraudulent offenses were clearly defined, someone with a new way of defrauding someone would get away with it until new laws were passed to outlaw the conduct, and would face no repercussions for his or her actions up until the moment those laws get passed.
Unfortunately, this puts innocent people in a difficult position. Their novel business practices can attract the scrutiny of law enforcement and lead to allegations of a white collar crime – particularly those business practices that are lucrative.
The Difference Between State and Federal Jurisdiction
There are numerous specific white collar crimes, many of which are prohibited by both West Virginia state law and by federal law. For the target of a white collar investigation, this creates a level of uncertainty in the early stages of the case, as it may be unclear whether state or federal charges will be filed.
The difference between a state and a federal prosecution is not small. Just a few key points to know are that:
- The penalties for violating a federal white collar criminal statute tend to be higher than state law violations
- Federal sentencing guidelines more frequently require mandatory minimum sentences than in West Virginia state court
- The law enforcement agencies that prosecute federal offenses have far more resources than West Virginia law enforcement agencies, making for a more thorough investigation that often creates a stronger case against you
The rules for when federal jurisdiction gets triggered can be very complex. Generally, though, state law enforcement always has jurisdiction over offenses that happen within their state lines, while federal jurisdiction only arises when:
- The offense involved a federal source of funding, like Medicare or Medicaid or the Food Stamp program,
- The offense targeted the banking system,
- Federal law was violated, or
- The white collar crime reached beyond West Virginia state lines.
Even when there is federal jurisdiction, federal law enforcement agencies like the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) often let states prosecute the offense under state law if the alleged crime does not involve substantial sums of money.
Examples of Federal White Collar Crimes
Federal white collar offenses violate federal laws in the U.S. Code. Just a few of these offenses include:
- Bank fraud
- Securities fraud
- Healthcare fraud
- Mail and wire fraud
- Insider trading
- Identity theft
- Money laundering
- Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) offenses
- Tax violations
- Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) fraud
- Antitrust violations
- Mortgage fraud
These offenses can be prosecuted by a wide variety of federal agencies, including the:
- U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ)
- Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
- Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
- Office of Inspector General – Department of Health and Human Services (HHS-OIG)
Some Examples of West Virginia White Collar Crimes
West Virginia state white collar crimes are often smaller and less widespread offenses, with fewer victims and less money at issue. However, they are still significant criminal offenses that frequently carry multiple years in prison.
Some examples are:
- Workers’ compensation fraud
- Unemployment insurance fraud
- Mortgage fraud
- Car insurance fraud
- Check fraud
None of these offenses involve federal sources of money – for example, both unemployment and workers’ compensation are state programs. Many of these offenses, like car insurance fraud or mortgage fraud, can also be singular, isolated offenses rather than huge schemes involving hundreds of incidents. Defendants are often individual people who have been accused of a single count of fraud.
Note also that there is overlap: Many offenses, like embezzlement, can violate both state and federal law. However, there often have to be out-of-state victims for it to fall under federal jurisdiction.
The Steep Penalties of a Conviction
A conviction for a white collar offense – whether a state or a federal one – comes with serious penalties and collateral consequences. You can face:
- Substantial prison time, sometimes of more than a decade
- Huge criminal fines
- Restitution payments
- Disgorgement of fraudulently-obtained funds and assets
- Suspension or revocation of any professional licenses that enabled the offense
Additionally, a white collar conviction can tarnish your criminal background and your reputation in ways that will affect you for years after you complete your sentence. It is often impossible to return to the profession that you were in before you were convicted.
Potential Legal Defenses to a White Collar Charge in West Virginia
Raising the right legal defense to the charges that have been filed against you is essential if you want to avoid a conviction and protect your future. The specific facts of your case will determine which line of defense is the best. However, some common legal defenses that The Criminal Defense Firm has used to protect their white collar clients in West Virginia have included:
- A search that found incriminating evidence violated your civil rights, making the evidence subject to the exclusionary rule
- Police entrapment coerced you into committing an offense that you would not have committed on your own
- You did not have the intent to defraud someone
- You were unaware that your services were being used by someone else to commit a white collar offense
- You committed the offense out of duress
Particularly in white collar offenses, where much of the evidence is documentary in the form of bank statements and emails, it is often possible to raise reasonable doubts about the prosecutor’s claim that your conduct was fraudulent. Offering innocent explanations for the evidence can undermine the case against you and convince a jury of your innocence.
Frequently Asked Questions About The Criminal Defense Firm and West Virginia White Collar Criminal Law
When Should I Hire a Lawyer?
As soon as possible.
Delaying in hiring a white collar defense attorney puts the attorney you do eventually hire into a more difficult position than if you had hired one immediately. There are often numerous steps that a skilled defense lawyer can take to prepare for the case and protect your interests when they are brought on board as soon as you learn of a potential investigation. That preparation will help you throughout the case, and some of those steps that a lawyer can take in the early stages of an investigation can persuade law enforcement to not press charges.
It is important to remember that a criminal charge for a white collar crime is often the culmination of a months-long investigation. Waiting until you have been charged to hire an attorney means that you give law enforcement a huge head start in the case.
How Will I Know If I Am Under Investigation?
There are several ways that you can learn that you are under investigation for a white collar offense.
One of the most common is that your associates are being interviewed by state or federal law enforcement agents. While you are unlikely to get told what the interview was about, if multiple people in your network are being questioned, there is a significant chance that you are the subject of the investigation.
A more obvious sign is if you are actually notified of the investigation, often with a target letter or a subpoena. If you receive a communication like this, you need to contact a defense lawyer immediately or risk disclosing incriminating evidence that ends up hurting you later on.
The Criminal Defense Firm Does Not Call Itself the Best White Collar Defense Firm in West Virginia. Why Not?
Because we prefer to let our prior clients leave testimonials to this effect. While our team of seasoned senior lawyers all have extensive experience in representing white collar defendants in West Virginia, producing a long track record of successes both in and out of court, we appreciate how statements like these can mean far more when they come from prior clients than from our firm.
West Virginia White Collar Lawyers at The Criminal Defense Firm
If you have been accused of committing a white collar offense or have learned that you are under investigation in West Virginia, you need legal representation immediately. Call The Criminal Defense Firm at (866) 603-4540 or contact us online to get started on your case.