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White collar criminal charges: Times have changed

Whether you work for a small or large company or you are an entrepreneur or a businessperson, you are no doubt aware of the fraud, corruption and embezzlement scandals that have made headlines in recent years. While big news stories involve government agencies and the business world, you may be more concerned about what will happen with your own case if you have been charged or you are being investigated for white-collar offenses.

With public attention on high-profile cases, you may have drawn conclusions about how authorities deal with those accused of white collar crime. Although it may seem like investigators and prosecutors aren't terribly concerned about the enforcement of laws against certain non-violent, financial offenses, you may be interested in how the facts debunk common myths about white collar crime.

"Country club" convictions?

You may believe the notion that federal courts give lenient sentences to those convicted in white collar schemes. This may have been true decades ago when insider trading, embezzlement and other illegal behaviors were more often seen as victimless crimes. However, because so many have experienced the trauma of losing their life savings, modern-day judges may be bound to mandatory sentencing guidelines, which have tightened.

You may remember hearing that, after the banking and mortgage scandals a few years ago, none of the executives responsible for the resulting crisis spent time in jail. It has been reported that dozens of traders and bankers and numerous chief executives received prison sentences. A judge handed at least one high-ranking bank official a sentence of over 20 years in prison. White collar crimes can get you time behind bars.

Face the truth about your circumstances

Law enforcement agencies continue to perfect the investigative tools that help them bring down those who perpetrate violent and organized crime. Those same methods, including undercover agents and wiretapping, have helped prosecutors identify and convict some of America's most notorious white collar criminals. These cases may demonstrate that it's not wise to believe the myth that the justice system is not willing to prosecute the rich and powerful -- or to overlook the charges against you.

If you are facing white-collar criminal charges, the chances may be greater than you think that prosecutors may take an interest in you, and a judge and jury may hand down a harsh sentence if they convict you. Leaving your future to chance may not be a smart move when you could have a strong defense advocate representing you.

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