The coronavirus pandemic’s effects on White-collar crimes

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has taken the world by surprise. As the numbers in the United States continue to escalate, the demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) and other essentials such as test kits continues to rise.

Additionally, many commercial and government entities have shifted their response. For instance, President Donald Trump invoked the Defense Production Act (DPA) in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The law has been used to increase the production of medical supplies. Many companies, small businesses, and individuals look elsewhere to procure critical supplies on an expedited basis.

As a result, companies, and individuals become targets for “illicit traffickers or third-party ‘consultants’ whose real job is to bribe officials and others.”

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic creates a ‘new normal’ (social distancing, isolation, masks, new regulations and policies for employees, etc.) small businesses and individuals can become victims of the ambiguity of internal policies and controls.

That is to say, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in many disruptions to the ordinary course of business. Persons may be tempted to engage in activities to expedite the process to obtain goods such as sanitary masks, gloves, etc. from a supplier.

Unfortunately, such activities can happen as a result of unclear or unenforced guidelines and policies because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Furthermore, white-collar crimes are steadily on the rise as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to threaten economic stability and the livelihood of small businesses. 

The New York Law Journal reports that as New York lawyers brace themselves for the “surge of white-collar criminal and civil cases” the Defense Production Act (DPA) has become a tool for prosecutors.

For instance, in recent weeks the Brooklyn U.S. Attorney’s office “has brought criminal charges for hoarding and price-gouging of PPE under the Defense Production Act.”

Many different criminal offenses make up the term “white-collar crime.” Sometimes those charged with committing white-collar crimes may not realize they are committing a criminal offense or are involved in a criminal organization or scheme.

The term is used on nonviolent crimes involving financial gain and committed in business situations by individuals, groups, or companies. These include, for example, committing credit card fraud, identity fraud, money laundering, embezzlement, etc.

It may be easy for some people to get caught up in a crime scheme and not even be aware they can be prosecuted for committing a white-collar crime. In the midst of these uncertain circumstances, the global supply chain is filled with Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) traps.  

Well-intentioned persons hoping to acquire foreign PPE manufacturing partners or the safety equipment could become casualties if they are not careful. The New York Law Journal also reports that the Justice Department has indicated that coronavirus (COVID) related fraud would be a “top priority going forward,” and given the rush to buy personal protective equipment, activities under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) are likely to happen.

If you have been charged with a white-collar crime in New York, it is important to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent your best interests and defend the allegations against you.

With all the uncertainties of the coronavirus pandemic, it is unclear when courts will fully open.

Also, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Order related to the coronavirus pandemic responses (e.g., Executive Order 202.8) has affected the statutes of limitations and has relaxed deadlines in New York State courts.

For example, the suspension of jury trials in the Southern District and all of New York City courts has caused a “backlog in cases,” in particular, hearings and trials.

We have also noticed that the seizures of U.S. Currency at JFK airport by DEA agents has increased dramatically even though the number of people at the airport has dropped. Federal agents often use civil asset forfeiture laws to seize property.

Having an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you during these unprecedented times.

An experienced and qualified Queens criminal defense attorney can help you fight the allegations against you and help you receive the best outcome possible for your particular situation.