Can you commit white-collar crimes unknowingly?

| Jun 25, 2021 | White Collar Crimes |

Many of the most serious criminal offenses require criminal intent. You had to intent to defraud someone or cause them harm. However, sometimes people get swept up in criminal charges that they didn’t even realize they committed.  

Professionals could find themselves implicated in a conspiracy that leads to white-collar criminal charges. It is actually possible for employees to inadvertently contribute to white-collar crimes without realizing the effects of their actions and without benefiting directly from those crimes.  

There are many ways you could find yourself facing white-collar criminal charges without any criminal intent, many of which involve one of the two factors below.  

You follow a supervisor’s instructions in violation of company policy 

Your boss or the manager from another department pops into accounting and tells you that you need to send a wire immediately. They provide you with instructions but do not follow the standard protocol or documentation under company policy.   

You defer to their authority and make the transfer. If you do so, they may come back to you repeatedly because they know you won’t ask questions. If they wind up accused of embezzlement, the fact that you sent the wires could implicate you as well.  

You don’t realize that company practices violate the law 

You started working at a doctor’s office as a receptionist. When someone went on maternity leave from the billing department, you got to step into their position, which included a pay raise and the possibility of a permanent promotion. You didn’t have any formal education in medical billing or insurance law, but you learn quickly.  

What you didn’t realize was that the company policy of unbundling charges and billing for each item or treatment separately was a violation of insurance law. You may not even realize if your employer completely makes up medical appointments. If you are the one submitting those billing claims, you could wind up facing charges too. 

Although these examples are industry-specific, following company policy or a manager’s orders could easily put you on the wrong side of the law. You don’t need to intend to break the law or benefit directly from illegal practices to face consequences. Understanding how you could face white-collar criminal charges without intending to break the law can help you plan to defend against them. 

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