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White collar crimes actually refer to a lot of different kinds of crimes. You could be talking about embezzlement, money laundering, theft, tax fraud, structuring, and we’re discussing both state and federal prosecutions. It’s sort of a general crimes category. The unique challenges of a white collar case are they’re paper intensive, so we’re talking about going through hundreds to thousands of bank records, wire transactions, checks. Just by nature, these cases are gonna be document-intensive. What a good white collar lawyer knows is the full story is not in the records, because you can get those records easily. They’re produced by the other side. But where the challenging part is is to explain to a jury or a prosecutor why the records do not tell the whole story, because for every single white collar crime, there’s one thing they have in common is that there’s an intent element. So it can’t just be there was a money transaction that was illegal or there was a check deposited that was fraudulent. They have to show a specific intent and some kind of fraudulent intent on the client’s part, and that’s really where most of the defenses lay in a case like this, because yes, you’re gonna have bank records or you’re going to have the checks. The challenging part is explaining how what is on paper is not representative of what actually happened.
And I would say another unique challenge in white collar cases is I’m dealing with people just like myself. These are professionals. They are highly-educated. They are smart, and they are opinionated, so of course they’re gonna push back, and sometimes white collar clients don’t appreciate the advice that’s given. They’re sometimes lawyers or doctors, just the same way that I am, and so having that high level of education for that particular kind of client, there can be the too many cooks in the kitchen problem. But overall I think the bigger issue in the white collar is knowing that it’s very difficult to prove somebody’s intent, because your client’s the only one who truly knows if he or she had that intent and what they knew at the time the check was written or the wire transaction was made, and so that’s really where you wanna focus the defense.
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Los Angeles, CA criminal defense attorney Karen L. Goldstein talks about the challenges in defending a white collar case.
Karen is the recipient of Trial Attorney of the Year 2020, The Jerry Giesler Memorial Award, by the Criminal Courts Bar Association (CCBA).