White Collar Criminal Charges: Famous Fraud and Embezzlement Cases that Teach Us About the Law 

Every couple of years, a famous case will emerge into the public eye and call into question some of the complexities of the law. From high-profile criminal cases to well-publicized civil suits, these cases can often bring to light important questions about the law and our criminal justice system. 

Facing criminal charges (or seeing a loved one charged) can be harrowing and overwhelming, so let’s look at some of the most famous cases in fraud and embezzlement that have brought to light important aspects of the law. 

A Quick Legal Definition of Fraud and Embezzlement 

For something to constitute fraud in the legal sense, proof of intentional or negligent misrepresentation of facts must be shown. The person in question must have known or been reckless in their representation of the facts. In broad terms, fraud includes cases that involve false representation, dishonesty, and deceit. 

When it comes to embezzlement, the terms are a little different. The term embezzlement is used to describe a type of white-collar crime in which a person or entity (company or organization) misuses misappropriated funds or assets that are entrusted to them. This is a type of fraud, where the embezzler misuses funds or assets and then uses them for unintended purposes. This usually happens when an individual or company is entrusted with another individual’s profits, assets, or income. 

Common Characteristics of a Fraud Case

The extent of fraud can vary significantly, as it can occur within family members, friends, or between companies or corporations. It can involve a few hundred dollars, thousands of dollars, or even millions. Companies go bankrupt or find themselves in serious legal trouble when accused of fraud allegations. Fraud cases can involve:

  • Stolen assets or profits
  • Manipulated accounting or books
  • Faulty items 
  • Bad services
  • Ponzi schemes 

Famous Fraud Cases in the Public Spotlight 

Recent cases have brought to light common legal questions regarding fraud. One of these is the famous Wells Fargo case of the last few years. 

A Primer on the Wells Fargo Fraud Case

This recent fraud case made headlines when the national bank was discovered to have lied about its sales practices and accounts. The case begins when Wells Fargo employees were pressured by the higher-ups to meet high quotas in an attempt to increase sales and revenue. This led to bad practices as employees began creating savings and checking accounts for customers without their approval. 

In order to reach the high quotas, the staff became embroiled in a chain of inappropriate activities including moving money into fraudulent accounts. It was only a matter of time before bank customers would notice unwarranted fees on their accounts and realize that they had accounts they didn’t even know about. This did not end well for the bank. In 2020, they were forced to pay $3 dollars to settle long-running civil and criminal probes. 

Common Characteristics of an Embezzlement Case 

Embezzlement is often mentioned along with fraud, as the crimes are similar. Embezzlement, however, refers to individuals or entities that misuse funds they are entrusted with in a legal or professional capacity. These cases can typically include: 

  • Claiming assets such as real estate, company vehicle, or other property that belongs to a company for personal use 
  • Investing scams 
  • Transferring funds entrusted to them to their personal accounts 
  • Ponzi schemes that also involve certain kinds of fraud 

Famous Embezzlement Cases in the Public Spotlight 

A little more than ten years ago, a famous comedian made headlines for more than his comedy routine. Dane Cook was a well-known comedian, selling out large venues and appearing in every late-night show imaginable. Behind the scenes and behind his back, there was some pretty serious embezzlement going on. 

Dane Cook’s half-brother—who had been his manager since he got his start—was tasked with handling the finances and, as it turns out, stole money from Cook. In 2010, it was discovered that Darryl McCauley had embezzled money that belonged to his half-brother despite the fact that Cook was paying him a good 12,500 per month as his business manager.  

The realization that his own trusted brother had been stealing from him was quite the personal blow for the comedian. The case was pretty clear cut, as McCauley had not been particularly careful in covering his tracks. This was a case of embezzlement because McCauley was entrusted to take care of the funds for his brother and instead used them for his personal use. 

Looking for a Strong Defense, Find the Right Legal Counsel for Your Case

Cases of fraud and embezzlement can be complicated cases. Every state has its approach to these types of white-collar crimes as well, so it depends on the individual circumstances of the case. W. Shane Jennings works to represent and defend those that are facing charges, both criminal and civil. 

Do you know someone that needs legal representation in New Mexico? Whether they face criminal charges or a personal injury case, our lawyer provides the counsel they need. Call W. Shane Jennings today. 

Self-Defense or Assault? What New Mexico Law Says 

If you have ever been in or witnessed a fight or altercation, you may have wondered how the law would view the situation. You’re not alone; plenty of people get into these situations daily not knowing who would be seen as the aggressor. 

Too often, people are entangled in the legal system without knowing a lick of law. Not surprisingly, they tend to get into more trouble than probably had to occur. Hopefully, this blog can help shed some light on New Mexico law regarding self-defense and assault & battery. 

A Primer On Self-Defense 

In New Mexico, as in many other states, citizens are not required to retreat if they feel they are under an immediate threat to their well-being. Instead, citizens have the right to defend themselves under certain circumstances. The State of New Mexico separates its self-defense law into two basic parts: non-deadly force and deadly force. 

According to New Mexico law, you need to meet the following criteria to legally use non-deadly force in self-defense: 

  • There was an appearance of immediate danger of bodily harm to you or another as a result of an unlawful act;
  • You were, in fact, put in fear of immediate bodily harm to yourself or another, and used non-deadly force because of that fear;
  • You used an amount of force that you believed was reasonable and necessary to prevent the bodily harm; and
  • The apparent danger would have caused a reasonable person in the same circumstances to act as you did.

For deadly force, the criteria will change slightly: 

  • There was an appearance of immediate danger of death or great bodily harm to you or another as a result of the threat from the perpetrator;
  • You were, in fact, put in fear by the apparent danger of immediate death or great bodily harm to yourself or another, and killed the perpetrator because of that fear; and
  • A reasonable person in the same circumstances would have acted as you did. 

Basically, you need to have believed yourself to be in danger and acted with an appropriate amount of force. The law determining that a “reasonable person” must have acted the same way leaves it open to an incredible amount of interpretation. Nonetheless, self-defense in New Mexico works very similarly to other states. 

Assault & Battery in New Mexico

Assault and battery in New Mexico, much like with self-defense, is similar to most other states. Assault is defined as an attempt to commit a physical attack or as intentional threats, words, or actions that cause a person to feel afraid of impending violence. Many assault charges never involve any physical violence, only threats. 

Battery in New Mexico is defined as the unlawful, intentional touching or application of force to the person of another when done in a rude, insolent, or angry manner. Battery can take many forms, but this is the basic definition common to most varieties of battery. 

The backbone of both assault & battery is intent and action. Thus, understanding the sequence of events and mind-state of all involved is necessary for the court to rule in someone’s favor. 

Potential Gray Areas 

Looking at what the law says, it seems like it should be cut and dry. However, it can be a contentious issue depending on the case. How? Let’s dive deeper into the law. 

For all laws, they tend to fall apart when there are subjective or fuzzy elements in the language. In the self-defense law, we see weak points in the idea of a “reasonable person” and in the appearance and actual nature of danger. If the parties involved don’t agree on the situation, it can make for a much more difficult case. 

The concept of a “reasonable person” is a legal term often used in matters of tort and personal law. It is a legal fiction used to determine if someone acted outside what would be normal behavior from a law-abiding citizen. However, it is unavoidably subjective, leading to inconsistent legal outcomes. 

This fuzziness and subjectivity are the arena of the judge, jury, and legal counsel. Together, a picture and frame for your case will be built and an objective ruling is determined from all legally-relevant factors. This is why competent legal counsel is so important for each case.

Tips For Avoiding Legal Trouble 

Knowing the law is important, but the best way to not get into legal trouble is to never be in a situation that the law may be required for. If you foresee a situation where violence may be threatened or committed, it’s best to simply walk away. 

If that much can’t be done, then you’ll want to document everything that happened leading up to and during your encounter. Gathering eyewitnesses that can provide more evidence to corroborate your accounts will also be incredibly useful. Finally, obtaining legal counsel that is well-versed in the law is crucial to your case. Poor legal counsel could mean a worse overall outcome. 

Trust The Law Office of W. Shane Jennings! 

In most cases, the line between self-defense and assault and battery is clear. However, regardless of how your particular case is shaped, you’ll want competent legal counsel by your side. For years, our legal team has defended the rights of citizens in New Mexico. Contact us today or visit our website to schedule your consultation!