Asset Forfeiture and White-Collar Crimes: Strategies for Defendants

By Brock Benjamin
Founding Attorney

Asset forfeiture is the legal process by which the government seizes property they believe to have been associated with or obtained by means of criminal activity. In cases where the financial gains as a result of the white-collar crimes were alleged to be substantial, the government does little to differentiate what assets are “criminally tainted” and which were legitimately obtained with hard-earned money. The government tends to seize and freeze assets indiscriminately and at the smallest indicia of criminal involvement, and doing so can have a devastating impact on the alleged offender. They can physically take tangible items and freeze financial accounts, leaving the alleged offender with few options. The government won’t just freeze the amount from a bank account that they can “tie” to a crime. In most cases, the alleged offender loses access to the entirety of the account. In addition to freezing bank accounts and investment portfolios, the government can seize just about anything physical, from real estate to vehicles to artwork, so long as the government can somehow tie it to the proceeds of a crime or the commission of a crime, even loosely.

Even worse, this can all happen long before a conviction is handed down, while the investigation is still very much in progress. Moreover, if the criminal case doesn’t go in the alleged offender’s way, they may never see these assets again. Alleged offenders facing white-collar crime charges often find themselves at risk of not only losing their freedom, but their hard-earned assets. And with little financial freedom to meet their basic needs, let alone sustain the lifestyle they worked hard to obtain, fighting back can seem daunting, if not impossible. However, with the help of an experienced El Paso white-collar crime defense attorney, favorable results are possible.

Understanding White-Collar Crime

White-collar crime refers to a sub-category of non-violent crimes that are largely financially motivated. Common types of white-collar crime include:

  • Bank fraud
  • Bankruptcy fraud
  • Credit card fraud
  • Insurance fraud
  • Telemarketing fraud
  • Mortgage fraud
  • Wire fraud
  • Mail fraud
  • Healthcare Fraud
  • Embezzlement
  • Identity theft
  • Money laundering

Despite being non-violent, Texas, New Mexico, and the federal government prosecute these crimes mercilessly. In fact, there are more organizations dedicated to identifying, investigating, and prosecuting white-collar crimes than there are tasked with keeping violent offenders off the streets. However, there are ways to combat these charges, just as there are strategies to stop asset forfeiture in its tracks and to ensure your hard-earned assets remain in your possession and control.

  1. Proactive Legal Intervention.

If you or a loved one are facing a white-collar crime investigation and are at risk of or are in the process of asset forfeiture, it’s vital that you consult an experienced white-collar crime defense attorney as soon as possible. There is little time to wait. Your attorney will immediately evaluate the case, investigate the accusations, and help you strategize a proactive approach to protecting your assets.

  1. Challenging the Legal Basis for the Asset Forfeiture.

Your attorney will first challenge the legal basis the government is using to seize your assets. While secondary to a criminal case, asset forfeiture proceedings, are, unfortunately, a civil action. This means that the government must show that the assets they are trying to seize are connected with criminal activity by a “preponderance of the evidence”, rather than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard employed in criminal trials. They simply need to show that it is more likely than not that these assets are connected with or the proceeds of a crime, rather than that they are undoubtedly connected. However, this standard is still far from easy to meet. Your attorney can help you dispute the connection between the assets and the alleged crime and scrutinize the seizure process, ensuring that the government isn’t violating any of your constitutional rights in the process and that they aren’t taking anything more than absolutely necessary for the investigation.

  1. Asserting Innocence, Lack of Knowledge, or Lack of Intent.

Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to make a case that you were not involved in these crimes, didn’t knowingly benefit from the crimes, or that you didn’t intend to commit the alleged offense. Making a strong case that you were not intentionally and knowingly complicit in these crimes is one of the best arguments for the return of any seized assets, as the government would no longer have any reasonable basis for the seizure.

  1. Making the Most of Procedural Errors.

Regardless of the accusations that lie before you, you always have rights under the Constitution that must be upheld. The asset forfeiture process is complex and nuanced, and law enforcement must adhere to strict procedural guidelines. If, at any point in the investigation, your rights were infringed upon by an investigator or prosecutor, your attorney can bring this to the attention of the government and the courts. Procedural errors are strong grounds to challenging the legality of the forfeiture, providing an opportunity to protect and regain possession of your assets. Your attorney will carefully examine the process and procedures law enforcement are following to ensure their strict compliance. 

  1. Mitigating Collateral Consequences.

Asset forfeiture can take a greater toll than just being deprived of your assets. It can have significant collateral damage, especially as the process is seldom done quietly. As such, you may be facing harm to your reputation, financial instability, and strained relationships, especially if any of these assets are jointly owned. Your attorney can help mitigate the damage of asset forfeiture by negotiating with financial institutions to preserve essential accounts, protecting the rights of any innocent co-owners or affected family members, and safeguarding your financial stability. Your attorney can also help you minimize the damage to your reputation by pointing you in the direction of helpful public relations resources.

  1. Negotiating a Settlement.

In some cases, your attorney can negotiate a favorable settlement with the government. While this largely depends on the specifics of your case and the viability of your defenses against the charges, common settlements involve cooperating with a greater investigation, paying a fine, serving a portion of the sentence for the alleged crime, community service, or agreeing to forfeit specific assets in place of others, which would secure the return of a portion of the seized assets and would resolve the case without going to trial.

El Paso White-Collar Crime Defense Attorney

With the potential for serious penalties and the loss of your hard-earned assets, white-collar crime charges need to be fought aggressively and relentlessly. That’s why it’s critical you act fast, turning to a seasoned and skilled white-collar crime defense attorney. The sooner you fight these charges, the more likely you will be reunited with your assets, and the better chances of a positive outcome in your case.

Based in El Paso but proudly serving clients across Texas and New Mexico, the Benjamin Law Firm offers comprehensive criminal defense, civil litigation, and aviation law services. With nearly two decades of experience in the field, founding partner Brock Benjamin is one of the very few attorneys who truly specializes in criminal law, as he is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Many Texas attorneys may practice criminal law, but few can say they specialize in criminal law like Attorney Benjamin. As a former prosecutor, Attorney Benjamin also has a unique perspective, allowing insider insight into the tricks and tactics that prosecutors use. He uses that perspective and experience to defend his clients zealously and relentlessly.

Contact us or call us at (915)-221-7462 today so we can help stop this asset forfeiture in its tracks. También podemos ayudarte en español.

About the Author
Brock Benjamin is board-certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.  His practice is primarily state and federal criminal law and appeals.Brock 

Posted in: White Collar Crimes