White Collar Crime
by Stephen D. Rogers

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Some people ask whether a mystery has to revolve around murder. While murder (or the threat of murder) is the genesis of most mysteries, you can also write about other violent crimes (such as rape or assault), non-violent crimes (such as car theft or vandalism), or even white-collar crimes.

White-collar crimes are those committed in a business setting for financial gain. The perpetrators are individuals or corporations which appear above reproach and the crimes are non-violent in nature. Because the victims are not physically threatened, these actions are also sometimes called victimless crimes. But are they?

One imagines many victims of victimless crimes fighting the urge for revenge when the perpetrators receive little or no punishment. One imagines the self-restraint failing.

The Urge for Revenge?

Financial crimes, though slow to raise a passionate public outcry, can still generate at least six kinds of mysteries:

Private Investigator. A victim can hire a private investigator to bring the wrongdoing to light after the authorities fail to generate enough evidence to move forward. While the PI may never have worked this kind of case before, the victim's sense of betrayal might cause the PI to accept the challenge.

Government Investigator. An investigator for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Internal Revenue Service (IRS), United States Postal Service (USPS), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), or other federal agencies may crusade against an unimpeachable foe. At the state level, possible investigating agencies include the Attorney's General Office, State Police/Troopers/Highway Patrol, Division of Insurance, and Division of Consumer Protection. (Check the locality of your story for the actual agencies.) The hero is attempting to change the system from within while pushing the need for reforms and introducing the reader to an insider's world.

Law Enforcement. Several white-collar crimes are investigated at the local level. Law enforcement officers might feel the strain of trying to justify their investigation when serious violent crimes hold the community's interest.

Legal Action. White-collar crimes are often so complicated that only in the courtroom are the stories ever untangled. The drama comes from the cat-and-mouse games of testimony and reversals, of lies exposed for all to see. Then the defense turns around and postulates that the accused was actually a victim of entrapment.

Conning the Con. White-collar criminals unpunished by regular channels may be targeted for a con job that will strip them of their ill-gotten gains. A victim who turns the tables on a perpetrator is often the sweetest executor of justice.

Crime Fiction. The victim may chose to follow the path of least resistance and physically assault or even kill the perpetrator.

Types of White Collar Crime

Following are more than twenty forms of white-collar crime. Fraud is considered lying in order to separate a victim from something of value.

Helpful Sites:

The following sites contain a mixture of general and specific information on white-collar crime. Statistics are more difficult to compile since many reports lump the various crimes under other.

FBI: White Collar Crime Section

Federal Trade Commission: Identity Theft

National White Collar Crime Center

United States Department of Justice

United States Department of the Treasury

United States Environmental Protection Agency

United States Postal Inspection Service

United States Secret Service

Copyright © 2004 Stephen D. Rogers
This article may not be reprinted without the author's written permission.

Stephen D. Rogers has published mysteries in magazines ranging from Plots With Guns to Woman's World, multiple anthologies, and several non-mystery markets. He is a graduate of the Framingham Police Department's Citizen Policy Academy and a member of Mystery Writers of America, Private Eye Writers of America, and the Short Mystery Fiction Society. Visit his website at http://www.stephendrogers.com).


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