People tend to have a stereotype in mind of the typical criminal, usually a violent and frightening person committing heinous acts. When offenders do not fit this picture, they may think that the crimes they are involved in are less severe. They may believe they can easily get out of charges or face limited legal consequences.
An example is white-collar crime. The average participant in occupational fraud, reports the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, is a well-educated, middle-aged white male in an accounting position. Furthermore, fraud usually does not entail personal interaction with victims. These characteristics can make it easy for perpetrators to think they can get off easy, but this is not true. The government takes all white-collar crimes very seriously.
The role of the crime's scope
The severity depends on the scope of the fraudulent activity. For example, an everyday citizen hiding some assets when filing for personal bankruptcy is not at the same level as a network of health care providers defrauding the government for years through false Medicare and Medicaid claims. What sets these apart is the scope they have on victims and the amount of money they involve. The more power and influence the offender has, the more people the crime affects and the more money the offender makes, the more severe the charges and potential penalties will be.
Legal and collateral consequences
Many participants believe the myth that they will not face prosecution or jail time. However, The Washington Report reveals that the majority of convicted fraud offenders serve at least some of their prison sentence. The legal consequences are real. In addition to prison, penalties include steep fines and restitution. Other effects may be loss of employment and/or professional licensure, divorce or custody issues.
Taking charges of fraud lightly can lead to long-term consequences in all areas of life. Strong legal representation is a must in order to avoid such an unsparing outcome.