White collar crime is handled differently than other types of criminal charges, because the evidence often revolves around documents and other financial records, rather than witness testimony.
According to a recent news article from AL.com, police arrested a 55-year-old defendant on charges of identity theft and financial exploitation of an elderly person. He is alleged to have stolen $125,000 from an 80-year-old family member.
Prosecutors say, for over two years he forged complaining witness's checks and used her credit card without her knowledge. The alleged victim claims to have no knowledge defendant was using her bank account or credit cards, according to authorities. Police reported that they have identified almost 90 separate checks that were either forged and cashed or forged and deposited into defendant's bank account.
Of the $125,000 claimed theft, $113,000 is allegedly from forged checks, and the remaining money was from around 20 transactions on two separate credit cards. The thefts occurred in two Alabama counties (Jefferson and Shelby) so he was charged in two different courts. In Shelby County, a judge held defendant on $80,000 bond for six counts, and a Jefferson County judge held him on $60,000 bond for the six counts in that county.
As our Birmingham criminal defense attorneys can explain, white-collar crimes require a detailed understanding of forensic accounting methods and often require the use of a forensic accountant to testify at trial. These cases are often far more complex than other types of criminal charges to defendant, and you should make sure your white-collar defense attorney has experiences dealing with these types of cases.
This is important, because persecutors will typically try to convince a defendant there is no possible defense, so he or she might as well just take the first plea offer (often known as a pre-indictment plea) and accept responsibility for the offenses charged. Prosecutors will also try to threaten defendants in white collar cases by saying they only charged X number of theft counts, but, since there were dozens or even hundreds of separate checks, they could charge defendant with many more counts if he or she doesn't plead guilty quickly.
While every case is different, and you should speak with your white collar defense attorney about the facts of your particular case, this is often more of a threat than a reality. It is also important to understand they may still need a witness to show you had no authorization to make any alleged purchases, and this is an issue your attorney can explore. In many cases, the police do not take proper precautions when interviewing an elderly complaining witness. It is interesting to note, prosecutors tend to claim alleged victims were taken advantage of due to dementia, and then interview those same alleged victims without forensically sound interview techniques.
However, in some cases, it may be wise to accept a plea offer, but it is never a good idea to accept an unfair deal in light of the situation. The best thing you can do is make sure your attorney is willing to fight for your constitutional rights and get you the best outcome based on the facts of your situation.
Man charged with stealing $125,000 from 80-year-old relative, April 4, 2015