White collar crimes are serious offenses in Tennessee and can lead to significant jail time, fines, and restitution. Oftentimes, white collar offenses are nuanced in nature, due to the evaluation of finances involved. In today’s blog, we will talk about 4 common white collar crimes you should know about – tax evasion, bank fraud, counterfeiting, and racketeering.
4 Common White Collar Crimes
Tax Fraud/Tax Evasion
Tax evasion can be a civil or criminal charge, depending on the circumstances. Taxpayers who fraudulently avoid paying their taxes typically owe both the unpaid taxes as well as the cost to investigate and prosecute the fraud.
Tennessee law makes it a Class C misdemeanor to:
- fail to file a tax return when required;
- violate any tax regulation;
- fail to give the Department of Revenue a list of stockholders paid dividends if they are a corporation.
Making a false return with the intent to avoid a tax is a Class E felony.
The penalties in the state for felonies and misdemeanors vary by class, but the sentencing ranges for the tax fraud cases above are up to 30 days in jail and a $50 fine for a Class C misdemeanor and 1-6 years in prison and up to $3,000 in fines for a Class E felony.
Tennessee prohibits having and using a credit or debit card that an individual isn’t authorized to use. More specifically, it is illegal to:
- knowingly possess a credit or debit card without the consent of the owner;
- use or allow another to use a credit or debit card, with fraudulent intent, to buy anything of value (property, services, credit) knowing that it is forged, stolen, revoked, cancelled, or expired.
The penalties for fraudulent use of a debit or credit card are based on the amount of property, goods, or services obtained through the crime. If the value of the property or services obtained through credit card fraud is $500 or less, it is a Class A misdemeanor. Note that even if nothing is actually obtained or received, the possession or use of the card is still a Class A misdemeanor. If the value of items obtained is worth $500-$1,000, it is a Class E felony, and if the value is $1,000-$10,000, it is a Class D felony. If the amount received via credit card fraud was worth $10,000-$60,000, the crime is a Class C felony, and for $60,000 or more in fraudulently taken goods, the act is a Class B felony.
Some ways to defend against fraudulent use of a credit or debit card in Tennessee are:
- lack of intent to defraud.
The crime of forgery in Tennessee consists of forging any written item with the intent to defraud or harm another. Written items include any document as well as coins, badges, credit cards, and seals. Examples of forgery include:
- signing another person’s name on a check;
- altering the amount on a check without permission;
- cashing a forged check at a bank;
- creating a fake deed or other real estate document;
- altering a financial document such as a promissory note; and
- using a forged instrument or document to obtain or transfer property or money.
Note that intent to defraud or injure another means an intent to get money or property that was not intended for the offender or take legal action that the offender is not authorized to do.
Forgery can be charged as felonies or misdemeanors in Tennessee and are classified according to the value of goods:
- $500 or less – Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to 11 months and 20 days in jail or a fine up to $2,500, or both
- more than $500 but less than $1,000 – Class E felony punishable by 1 – 6 years in prison and a fine up to $3,000
- more than $1,000 but less than $10,000 – Class D felony punishable by 2 – 12 years in prison and a fine up to $5,000
- more than $10,000 but less than $60,000 – Class C felony punishable by 3 – 15 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000
- more than $60,000 but less than $250,000 – Class B felony punishable by 8 – 30 years in prison and a fine up to $25,000
- more than $250,000 – Class A felony punishable by 15 - 60 years in prison and a fine up to $50,000
Another white collar crime punishable in Tennessee involves racketeering activity. It is illegal to receive any proceeds derived from a pattern of racketeering activity or through the collection of an unlawful debt to:
- use to gain title to an interest in real or personal property or in the establishment or operation of any enterprise; or
- acquire or maintain an interest in or control of any enterprise of real or personal property.
Note that unlawful debt refers to any money or thing of value constituting principal or interest of a debt that is legally unenforceable in Tennessee because the debt was incurred involving:
- controlled substances violations as determined by the statute;
- trafficking for commercial sex acts;
- promoting prostitution;
- patronizing prostitution;
- solicitation of a minor; or
- soliciting sexual exploitation of a minor, such as exploitation of a minor by electronic means.
Note that for a “pattern” of racketeering activity to exist, there must be at least 2 incidents of racketeering conduct that have the same or similar intents, results, victims, accomplices, or methods of commission up to 2 years apart.
The penalties for such criminal gang activity will depend on the specific circumstances of the case, but they will include factors such as the alleged offender’s criminal history and the underlying racketeering activities. Upon conviction, a person could face a combination of jail time, fines, and forfeiture of assets.
Accused of Committing a White Collar Crime?
If you have been accused of committing a white collar crime, whether tax fraud or racketeering, reach out to an experienced attorney immediately for legal guidance. The consequences of a white collar crime charge can be severe, especially if the value of the alleged goods taken are high. Our team at Eldridge & Blakney can examine the facts of your situation and help you determine your next course of action in the legal defense process.
Schedule a free case evaluation with Eldridge & Blakney today to discuss your situation.