White-Collar Crime Unit
The past year’s continuing economic difficulties provided a steady stream of unscrupulous people willing to steal to support a financially over-extended lifestyle, sate a gambling addiction, or simply to pay ordinary living expenses. The White Collar Crime Unit prosecutes crimes of sophistication and deception. The subjects of investigation were as diverse and varied as the schemes they devised to acquire their ill-gotten gains. Investment advisers, lawyers and doctors, public employees, bookkeepers, and general scam-artists all fell under the Unit’s scrutiny for crimes committed with pens, calculators and computers.
The Unit’s efforts resulted in $9,118,760 in restitution.
The caseload of the prosecutors assigned to the White Collar Crime Unit for charged cases currently pending in Superior Court ranges, on average, anywhere between 40 and 60 cases. Not reflected in that figure, however, are the many active, complicated financial crime or other investigations being handled by the Unit's prosecutors which often take months or even years to guide to succe ssful charging and prosecution.
Much of the Unit’s efforts in 2012 were devoted to the investigation and prosecution of traditional financial crimes such as embezzlement, obtaining money or property by false pretenses, wrongful conversion, forgery and banking violations, in addition to crimes relating to mortgage and loan fraud, which recently have become more widespread. The Unit endeavors to investigate all allegations of such activity, placing heavy emphasis on those that have a significant impact on individual victims or on the public at large. Recognizing the extreme stress and financial upheaval suffered by victims of financial crime, one of the Unit’s primary goals in these prosecutions is asset location and re stitution recovery for victims.
The Unit’s efforts in 2012 resulted in $9,118,760 in court-ordered restitution and, of that amount, $213,094 was returned immediately to victims at the time of defendants’ guilty pleas. The Unit also examined official misconduct by state and municipal government employees on allegations of theft, forgery, bribery and embezzlement.
The rapid proliferation of computers and “smartphones” has brought with it a wide array of computer-facilitated crimes, requiring the Unit to become deeply involved with high-tech methods of identifying and prosecuting such crime. Consequently, the Unit has increasingly focused on crimes committed through the use of computers and the Internet, such as network intrusions, identity theft, auction fraud, phishing scams, online fencing of stolen goods, online financial crimes, indecent online child solicitation and child pornography. The Unit works closely with law enforcement agencies specializing in computer crime - like the Rhode Island State Police Computer Crimes Unit - and regularly prosecutes cases investigated by Rhode Island’s Internet Crimes Against Children task force. Additionally, the Unit advises others within the Department of Attorney General and external agencies on computer-related issues that often arise in the course of more traditional violent-crime investigations.
Members of the Unit have also undertaken efforts to modernize the state’s laws in the areas of financial, public corruption and computer crime, assisting in the drafting of legislation to give law enforcement the tools needed to combat financial and other crimes in an increasingly technological world.