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White Collar Offenses Glossary

Embezzlement

The illegal transfer of money or property that, although possessed legally by the embezzler, is diverted to the embezzler personally by his or her fraudulent action. For example, an employee would embezzle money from the employer or a public officer could embezzle money received during the course of their public duties and secretly convert it to their personal use.

Perjury

The crime of intentionally lying after being duly sworn (to tell the truth) by a notary public, court clerk or other official. This false statement may be made in testimony in court, administrative hearings,depositions, answers to interrogatories, as well as by signing or acknowledging a written legal document(such as affidavit, declaration under penalty of perjury, deed, license application, tax return)known to contain false information. Although it is a crime, prosecutions for perjury are rare, because a defendant will argue he/she merely made a mistake or misunderstood.

Fraud

The intentional use of deceit, a trick or some dishonest means to deprive another of his/her/its money, property or a legal right. A party who has lost something due to fraud is entitled to file a lawsuit for damages against the party acting fraudulently, and the damages may include punitive damages as a punishment or public example due to the malicious nature of the fraud. Quite often there are several persons involved in a scheme to commit fraud and each and all may be liable for the total damages. Inherent in fraud is an unjust advantage over another which injures that person or entity. It includes failing to point out a known mistake in a contract or other writing (such as a deed), or not revealing a fact which he/she has a duty to communicate, such as a survey which shows there are only 10 acres of land being purchased and not 20 as originally understood.

Constructive fraud can be proved by a showing of breach of legal duty (like using the trust funds held for another in an investment in one’s own business) without direct proof of fraud or fraudulent intent. Extrinsic fraud occurs when deceit is employed to keep someone from exercising a right, such as a fair trial, by hiding evidence or misleading the opposing party in a lawsuit. Since fraud is intended to employ dishonesty to deprive another of money, property ora right, it can also be a crime for which the fraudulent person(s) can be charged, tried and convicted. Borderline overreaching or taking advantage of another’s naivete involving smaller amounts is often overlooked by law enforcement,which suggests the victim seek a “civil remedy” (i.e., sue). However, increasingly fraud, which has victimized a large segment of the public (even in individually small amounts), has become the target of consumer fraud divisions in the offices of district attorneys and attorneys general.

Theft

n.the generic term for all crimes in which a person intentionally and fraudulently takes personal property of another without permission or consent and with the intent to convert it to the taker’s use (including potential sale). In many states, if the value of the property taken is low (for example,less than $500) the crime is “petty theft,” but it is “grand theft” forlarger amounts, designated misdemeanor or felony,respectively. Theft is synonymous with”larceny.” Although robbery (taking by force), burglary (taken by entering unlawfully) and embezzlement (stealing from an employer) are all commonly thought of as theft, they are distinguished by the means and methods used and are separately designated as those types of crimes in criminal charges and statutory punishments.

Forgery

The crime of creating a false document, alteringa document, or writing a false signature for theillegal benefit of the person making the forgery.This includes improperly filling in a blankdocument, like an automobile purchase contract, overa buyer’s signature, with the terms different fromthose agreed. It does not include such innocentrepresentation as a staff member autographing photosof politicians or movie stars. While similar toforgery, counterfeiting refers to the creation ofphony money, stock certificates or bonds which arenegotiable for cash. 2) a document or signaturefalsely created or altered.

Counterfeit

Describing a document, particularly money,which is forged or created to look real and intended to pass for real. 2) v. to criminally forge or print a false copy of money, bonds, or other valuable documents, intending to profit from the falsity. 3)n. shorthand for phony money passed for real.

Extortion

Obtaining money or property by threat to a victim’s property or loved ones, intimidation, or false claim of a right (such as pretending to be an IRS agent). It is a felony in all states, except that a direct threat to harm the victim is usually treated as the crime of robbery. Blackmail is a form of extortion in which the threat is to expose embarrassing,damaging information to family, friends or the public.

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