(CNSNews.com) -- White collar convictions by the Department of Justice (DOJ) dipped to a “20-year historic low” in 2015, according to data obtained from the Executive Office of the U.S. Attorney under the Freedom of Information Act and analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University.
“Convictions over the past year are still much lower than they were five years ago,” TRAC reported.
DOJ reported 520 new convictions of white collar criminals in February.
But that number is down 7.3 percent from a year ago and represents a 16.7 percent decline in white collar convictions compared to five years ago, according to TRAC.
The Southern District of Illinois (East St. Louis) saw the “largest drop in the rate of white collar crime convictions – 53.3 percent” over the past year, according to TRAC.
“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’,” according to TRAC.
Last fall, Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates sent a memo to federal prosecutors instructing them to crack down harder on individual white collar criminals.
“Fighting corporate fraud and other misconduct is a top priority of the Department of Justice,” the memo stated.
The memo was the first major policy announcement under Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who has made prosecuting white collar criminals one of her top four priorities, in addition to fighting terrorism and going after perpetrators of cyber-crime and human trafficking.
White collar crimes are defined as “a non-violent event involving deceit, concealment, subterfuge, and other fraudulent activity.” This broad category includes fraud and theft (including identity theft), anti-trust violations and arson for profit.
Of the 520 convictions in February, the largest number (16.9 percent) were in the “Fraud – Other” category, TRAC reported, followed by convictions for:
- “Fraud – Federal Program” (13.1 percent);
- “Fraud – Tax” (12.9 percent);
- “Fraud – Financial Institution” (12.1 percent);
- “Fraud – Health Care” (7.9 percent);
- “Fraud – Identity Theft Aggravated” (7.1 percent);
- “Fraud – Other Business” (6 percent);
- “Fraud – Identity Theft Other” (5.2 percent);
- “Fraud – Mortgage” (5.2 percent); and
- “Fraud – Computer” (2.3 percent).
The Middle [Judicial] District of Louisiana had the highest number of white collar convictions per capita (1,018 per 10 million U.S. population) in February, although the Western District of New York (Buffalo) posted the largest growth in white collar crime (88.6 percent) compared to a year ago.
The lead investigative agency for 35 percent of the white collar convictions in February was the FBI, followed by the IRS (15 percent), Secret Service (13 percent), U.S. Postal Service (8 percent), and Dept. of Homeland Security (7 percent).
According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, “nearly half (49.3%) of offenders released from prison or placed on a term of probation in 2005 were rearrested within eight years for either a new crime or for some other violation of the technical conditions of their probation or release.”