White Collar Crime Convictions Continue To Decline

Table 1. White Collar Crime Convictions
Number Latest Month 520
Percent Change from previous month -5.6
Percent Change from 1 year ago -7.3
Percent Change from 5 years ago
(Including Magistrate Court)
Percent Change from 5 years ago
(Excluding Magistrate Court)

The latest available data from the Justice Department show that white collar crime convictions continued to decline during February 2016. Federal white collar prosecutions reached a 20-year historic low last year, and there is still an ongoing slide in both prosecutions and convictions. In February, the government reported 520 new white collar crime convictions. According to the case-by-case information analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), this number is down 5.6 percent over the previous month.

Comparisons of the number of defendants convicted for white collar crime-related offenses are based on case-by-case information obtained by TRAC under the Freedom of Information Act from the Executive Office for United States Attorneys (see Table 1).

When monthly 2016 convictions of this type are compared with those of the same period in the previous year, the number of convictions was down 7.3 percent. Convictions over the past year are still much lower than they were five years ago. Overall, the data show that convictions of this type are down 16.7 percent from levels reported in 2011.

The decrease from the levels five years ago in white collar crime convictions is shown more clearly in Figure 1. The vertical bars in Figure 1 represent the number of white collar crime convictions recorded on a month-to-month basis. Where a prosecution was initially filed in U.S. Magistrate Court and then transferred to the U.S. District Court, the magistrate filing date was used since this provides an earlier indicator of actual trends. The superimposed line on the bars plots the six-month moving average so that natural fluctuations are smoothed out. The one and five-year rates of change in Table 1 and in the sections that follow are all based on this six-month moving average.

Bar and line plot of FYMON

Figure 1. Monthly Trends in White Collar Crime Convictions

Within the broad category of white collar crime, cases were classified by prosecutors into more specific types. Case types within white collar crime are:

Federal Procurement Fraud Federal Program Fraud
Tax Fraud Arson for Profit
Other Insurance Fraud Financial Institution Fraud
Bankruptcy Fraud Advance Fee Schemes
Other Fraud Against Businesses Consumer Fraud
Securities Fraud Commodities Fraud
Other Investment Fraud Antitrust Violations - Other
Computer Fraud Health Care Fraud
Fraud Against Insurance Providers Intellectual Property Violations
Insider Fraud Against Insurance Providers MEWA (Multiple Employer Welfare Arrangements) Fraud/MET
Antitrust Violations - Airlines Antitrust Violations - Banking
Antitrust Violations - Defense Procurement Antitrust Violations - Extraterritorial Application Of
Antitrust Violations - Finance Markets, Other than Banking Telemarketing Fraud
Corporate Fraud Identity Theft
Aggravated Identity Theft Other White Collar Crime/Fraud

The largest number of convictions of these matters in February 2016 was for "Fraud-Other", accounting for 16.9 percent of convictions. Convictions were also filed for "Fraud-Federal Program" (13.1%), "Fraud-Tax" (12.9%), "Fraud-Financial Institution" (12.1%), "Fraud-Health Care" (7.9%), "Fraud-Identity Theft-Aggravated" (7.1%), "Fraud-Other Business" (6%), "Fraud-Identity Theft-Other" (5.2%), "Fraud-Mortgage" (5.2%) and "Fraud-Computer" (2.3%). See Figure 2.

The lead investigative agency for white collar crime convictions in February 2016 was the FBI, accounting for 35 percent of convictions. Other agencies with substantial numbers of white collar crime convictions were: IRS (15%), Secret Service (13%), U.S. Postal Service (8%) and DHS (7%). See Figure 3.

Pie chart of progcatlabel
Figure 2. Specific Types of Convictions
Pie chart of agenrevgrp
Figure 3. Convictions by Investigative Agency

White Collar Crime Convictions in U.S. Magistrate Courts

Top Ranked Lead Charges

In February 2016, charges against 11 defendants were filed in U.S. Magistrate Courts for while collar crime offenses. These courts handle less serious misdemeanor cases, including what are called "petty offenses." In addition, complaints are sometimes filed in the magistrate courts before an indictment or information is entered. In these cases, the matter starts in the magistrate courts and later moves to the district court where subsequent proceedings take place.

In the magistrate courts in February the most frequently cited lead charge was Title 18 U.S.C Section 1028 involving "Aggravated Identity Theft". This was the lead charge for 45.5 percent of all magistrate convictions in February.

White Collar Crime Convictions in U.S. District Courts

In February 2016, 509 defendants were charged in new cases in U.S. district courts for these matters. (During February there were no defendants whose cases moved from the magistrate courts to the U.S. district courts after an indictment or information was filed.) The sections which follow cover all matters filed in district court during February.

Top Ranked Lead Charges

Table 2 shows the top lead charges recorded in the convictions of white collar crime matters for cases filed in U.S. District Court during February 2016.

Table 2. Top Charges for Convictions
Lead Charge Count Rank 1yr ago 5yrs ago
18 USC 1343 - Fraud by wire, radio, or television 64 1 1 3
18 USC 1349 - Mail Fraud - Attempt and Conspiracy 42 2 3 8
18 USC 1341 - Mail Fraud - Frauds and swindles 39 3 6 2
18 USC 1344 - Bank Fraud 39 3 2 1
18 USC 371 - Conspiracy to commit offense or to defraud US 37 5 5 4
18 USC 1029 - Fraud and related activity - access devices 34 6 7 7
18 USC 641 - Public money, property or records 31 7 4 6
18 USC 1028 - Fraud and related activity - id documents 26 8 8 5
26 USC 7206 - Fraud and False statements 16 9 10 11
26 USC 7201 - Attempt to evade or defeat tax 15 10 11 10
  • "Fraud by wire, radio, or television" (Title 18 U.S.C Section 1343) was the most frequently recorded lead charge. "Fraud by wire, radio, or television" (Title 18 U.S.C Section 1343) was ranked 1 a year ago, while it was ranked 3 five years ago.

  • Ranked second in frequency was the lead charge "Mail Fraud - Attempt and Conspiracy" under Title 18 U.S.C Section 1349. "Mail Fraud - Attempt and Conspiracy" under Title 18 U.S.C Section 1349 was ranked 3 a year ago, while it was ranked 8 five years ago.

  • Ranked third were "Mail Fraud - Frauds and swindles" under Title 18 U.S.C Section 1341 and "Bank Fraud" under Title 18 U.S.C Section 1344. "Mail Fraud - Frauds and swindles" under Title 18 U.S.C Section 1341 was ranked 6 a year ago, while it was ranked 2 five years ago."Bank Fraud" under Title 18 U.S.C Section 1344 was ranked 2 a year ago, while it was ranked 1 five years ago.

Among these top ten lead charges, the one showing the greatest increase in convictions — up 18.1 percent — compared to one year ago was Title 18 U.S.C Section 1341 that involves "Mail Fraud - Frauds and swindles." Compared to five years ago, the largest increase — 65.3 percent — was registered for convictions under "Mail Fraud - Attempt and Conspiracy" (Title 18 U.S.C Section 1349 ).

Again among the top ten lead charges, the one showing the sharpest decline in convictions compared to one year ago — down 29 percent — was "Fraud and False statements" (Title 26 U.S.C Section 7206). Compared to five years ago, the most significant decline in convictions — 41.1 percent — was for convictions where the lead charge was "Attempt to evade or defeat tax" (Title 26 U.S.C Section 7201).

Top Ranked Judicial Districts

In February 2016 the Justice Department said the government obtained 191.6 white collar crime convictions for every ten million people in the United States.

Understandably, there is great variation in the per capita number of white collar crime convictions in each of the nation's ninety-four federal judicial districts. The districts registering the largest number of convictions per capita for these matters last month are shown in Table 3. Districts must have had at least 5 white collar crime convictions to receive a ranking.

Table 3. Top Ten Districts (per Ten Million People)
Judicial District Percapita Count Rank 1yr ago 5yrs ago
La, M 1,018 7 1 53 85
Okla, W 863 15 2 52 50
Mo, E 655 16 3 18 13
Ill, S 566 6 4 27 66
Fla, S 521 31 5 1 1
N. Y., W 511 12 6 37 22
Penn, E 494 24 7 2 9
Ill, C 374 7 8 50 59
Mich, E 354 19 9 14 29
La, W 333 6 10 67 47

The Middle District of Louisiana (Baton Rouge) — with 1,018 convictions as compared with 191.6 convictions per ten million population in the United States — was the most active during February 2016. The Western District of Oklahoma (Oklahoma City) ranked second, followed by the Eastern District of Missouri (St. Louis).

Recent entrants to the top 10 list were the Eastern District of Michigan (Detroit), now ranked ninth, and the Eastern District of Missouri (St. Louis) at third. In the same order, these districts ranked fourteenth and eighteenth one year ago, and twenty-ninth and thirteenth five years ago.

The federal judicial district which showed the greatest growth in the rate of white collar crime convictions compared to one year ago — 88.6 percent — was the Western District of New York (Buffalo). Compared to five years ago, the district with the largest growth — 300 percent — was the Middle District of Louisiana (Baton Rouge).

In the last year, the judicial District Court recording the largest drop in the rate of white collar crime convictions — 53.3 percent — was the Southern District of Illinois (East St. Louis).  But over the past five years, the Western District of Louisiana (Shreveport) showed the largest drop — 35.7 percent.

Top Ranked District Judges

Table 4. Top Ten Judges
Judge Count Rank
Friot, Stephen P. Okla, W 13 1
Garcia-Gregory, Jay A. Puer Rico 7 2
Hughes, Lynn Nettleton Texas, S 7 2
England, Morrison C., Jr. Cal, E 6 4
Moreno, Federico A. Fla, S 6 4
Myerscough, Sue Ellen Ill, C 6 4
Foote, Elizabeth Erny La, W 6 4
Wimes, Brian Curtis Mo, W 5 8
Stengel, Lawrence F. Penn, E 5 8
Dominguez, Daniel R. Puer Rico 5 8
Hoyt, Kenneth M. Texas, S 5 8

At any one time, there are about 680 federal District Court judges working in the United States. The judges recorded with the largest number of new white collar crime cases resulting in convictions of this type during February 2016 are shown in Table 4.

A total of 5 out of the "top ten" judges were in districts which were in the top ten with the largest number of white collar crime convictions per capita, while the remaining 6 judges were from other districts. (Because of ties, there were a total of 11 judges in the "top ten" rankings.)

Judge Stephen P. Friot in the Western District of Oklahoma (Oklahoma City) ranked first with 13 white collar crime convictions, followed by Judges Jay A. Garcia-Gregory in the District of Puerto Rico and Lynn Nettleton Hughes in the Southern District of Texas (Houston), each with 7 white collar crime convictions.

TRAC offers free monthly reports on program categories such as white collar crime, immigration, drugs, weapons and terrorism and on selected government agencies such as the IRS, FBI, ATF and DHS. For the latest information on prosecutions and convictions, go to http://trac.syr.edu/tracreports/bulletins/. In addition, subscribers to the TRACFed data service can generate custom reports for a specific agency, judicial district, program category, lead charge or judge via the TRAC Data Interpreter.