Five of the Biggest White Collar Frauds in History


White collar crimes may not involve violence, but that doesn’t mean the investigators don’t take them seriously or hit the offenders with heavy sentences. Some of the biggest white collar frauds in U.S. history have involved millions and even billions of dollars and cost people their livelihoods and their financial futures. In this blog, we look at five of the largest scale fraud crimes in U.S. history.

If you are accused of a white collar crime, you may have been motivated by financial hardship or family issues. You may have been wrongly drawn into a federal investigation and should contact our experienced Texas criminal defense attorneys as soon as possible. These are some of the biggest white collar crimes in U.S. history.

Portraits of men

The biggest white collar crimes (clockwise) Enron, Bernard Ebbers, Bernie Madoff, Allen Stanford and Jack Abramoff

1 Bernie Madoff

Bernie Madoff is a fixture in any list of the most audacious scams in U.S. history. Madoff was a Wall Street stockbroker who was accused of perpetrating the most extensive financial fraud in American history. His so-called “Ponzi Scheme” was set up to pay investors with other investors’ money. Those investors later lost billions of dollars.

Madoff made the word “Ponzi” a household name when he was arrested and charged with securities fraud. Although he had been suspected of fraud for 10 years before he came to the attention of the authorities, he wasn’t arrested until 2008 when his conduct was reported by one of his sons. In 2009, he pled guilty to 11 federal crimes including money laundering, securities fraud and theft from an employee benefit plan. He was sentenced to 150 years in prison and ordered to pay $170 billion in restitution.

2 Jack Abramoff

Jack Abramoff was a notorious lobbyist who illustrated the seedier side of Washington D.C. politics. A report on CBS revealed how he manipulated politicians and their staffers by giving them generous gifts as well as job offers that bought influence. His scandals implicated politicians and even the mob. They also landed him in prison for 70 months for using a fake wire transfer to qualify for a $60 million loan to buy a casino.

3 Enron

The scandal at the Texas-based energy giant became a byword for corporate white collar crime in the early 2000s. Enron grew rapidly to become America’s seventh largest company, employing more than 21,000 staff.

The firm’s rapid success was later revealed to be based on an elaborate scam. Enron set up about a dozen “partnerships” with companies it created, and then used its partnerships to conceal huge debts and heavy losses on its trading businesses.

The firm’s numerous crimes included manipulating Texas’s power market, bribing foreign governments to win contracts overseas and manipulating the energy market in California. Thousands of employees lost their pensions and livelihoods when the company collapsed.

Former chief executive Jeffrey Skilling was sentenced to 24 years in prison for his part in the fraud, but his sentence was later cut to 14 years. Former chairman Kenneth Lay was convicted of conspiracy and fraud and was sentenced to six years in jail. He died before he finished his sentence. Other executives were convicted of white collar crimes.

4 Allen Stanford

Texas-based businessman Allen Stanford was once hailed as a billionaire success story. In 2012, he was convicted by a Houston federal jury on conspiracy, fraud, and obstruction charges.

For more than 20 years he ran a $7.2 billion Ponzi scheme around the sale of high-yielding certificates of deposit through his Antigua-based Stanford International Bank, according to prosecutors. He was accused of using investor funds to make risky investments and finance his lavish lifestyle. He recently lost an appeal to overturn his conviction and 110-year prison sentence.

5 Bernard Ebbers

Known as the “telecom cowboy,” Bernard Ebbers embarked on an aggressive spate of takeovers at the helm of WorldCom, until he failed to take over Sprint.  As the tech bubble burst, WorldCom was revealed to be a sham that was falsely inflating revenues and fraudulently claiming normal expenses as capital expenditures. WorldCom artificially inflated assets to the tune of $11 billion. In 2005, the “telecom cowboy” was convicted of fraud and sentenced to 25 years in jail.

If you have been convicted of a white collar crime, we cannot guarantee we’ll win your case. However, we will bring our experience of these serious crimes to bear in your defense and work hard to ensure that your rights are protected, and that all evidence is correctly presented to the court. Call our office at  (512) 399-2311.

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