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The White-Collar Criminal Investigation Process

The White-Collar Criminal Investigation Process

The term “white-collar crime” was first used in the 1930s to describe crimes committed by so-called respectable people through their work. Today, the term is used to describe nonviolent crimes committed by individuals or businesses for financial gain in commercial situations. New York City criminal defense attorneys can guide you through the process of white-collar criminal investigations that lead to settlement or trial.

From pre-indictment to indictment

The federal government regulates white-collar crime through federal agencies that include the FBI, Internal Revenue Service, Secret Service, U.S. Customs, Environmental Protection Agency and the Securities and Exchange Commission. State agencies also regulate these crimes. An Assistant United States Attorney usually directs government agents in the investigation or pre-indictment phase of a white-collar crime. A grand jury is convened and meets in secrecy to review the criminal charges and investigate criminal behavior. Subpoenas are issued to gather documents and testimony. The grand jury deals with three types of people in the following capacities:

  • Witnesses are not being investigated but have information that is of interest.
  • The target is the object of the investigation.
  • A subject has engaged in suspect conduct but the prosecutor does not have enough evidence to accuse.

A target may be unaware they are under investigation for months or even years until the following situations occur:

  • Contact is established by a representative of a federal agency.
  • Contact is established by a representative from a state agency that investigates white-collar crime.
  • Grand jury subpoenas to produce business records.
  • A search warrant is used to seize business documents.
  • A target letter informs you of an investigation and invites you to meet with the prosecutor to discuss a possible resolution.

If the grand jury does not find probable cause that a crime was committed and that the accused is guilty, they issue a non-bill and the matter is resolved. However, if probable cause is found, a bill of indictment is handed down. This does not mean that the target is guilty, but rather that the case will proceed to trial if a settlement is not reached.

If you have been charged with a white-collar crime, believe you are under investigation, or have been told you are a witness, it is critical that you consult an experienced New York City criminal defense attorney.

Call our New York City criminal defense lawyers today


The Manhattan criminal defense lawyers at Abramson & Morak have successfully defended the rights of many clients accused of committing serious crimes. We provide the answers and support you need to get through this difficult and stressful process. No one will work harder for you. Call us today at 212.226.7098 or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation.