It is a common misconception that white-collar crimes, such as embezzlement or fraud, are less serious than other offenses. While white-collar crimes may call for shorter prison sentences than assault or burglary, the consequences for the convicted person’s personal and professional life can be just as severe. A Montana man now faces two years in prison after he pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering charges. The man was accused of conducting a “phone cramming” operation, which is the practice of selling phone-related services to customers, often without their knowledge. Charges for these services appear on the customer’s monthly phone bill. In this case, the man was accused of selling voicemail and fax services to customers – services that, according to the Federal Trade Commission, many customers didn’t realize they were receiving. The FTC noted that less than one percent of the man’s clients used the voicemail services they had purchased. Consent for these services was often included in websites offering free products. The practice allegedly involved huge amounts of money: the companies run by the man ran up more than $70 million in profits. At least $40 million has been returned to customers; a settlement with a civil court also called for the return of an undisclosed amount of precious metals in the man’s possession. The recent plea bargain for criminal charges recommends a two-year prison sentence. A prison sentence for any period of time is a serious consequence, but those convicted of white-collar crimes face a variety of other losses as well. A conviction for fraud or embezzlement acts as a serious black mark against an employee’s record, making it difficult or impossible for him or her to find employment in his or her chosen profession after the prison term is completed. Feelings of embarrassment or shame and strained relationships are also common. If you have been accused of a crime, it is important that you speak to an attorney about your options. You may have opportunities to defeat the charges you face, but it can be difficult to identify these opportunities without the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney. The law firm of Tipp & Buley provides criminal defense services to clients across Western Montana. To schedule a confidential, one-on-one consultation, contact our firm online or call 406-549-5186.