Utah Introduces First White Collar Crime Registry in the U.S.
Everyone has heard of the Sex Offender Registry, and some states even use general felony registries — but a registry specifically for offenders convicted of financial crimes, like fraud and money laundering? It would have seemed implausible until March of 2015, when Utah’s Legislature passed the nation’s very first online white collar crime registry.
Utah Governor Signs Bill Approving White Collar Crime Registry
Some people believe that the Sex Offender Registry is a completely appropriate anti-crime measure which serves the interest of public safety. Others feel the Registry is cruel and dehumanizing, serving only to encourage witch-hunts while simultaneously depriving registrants of the chance to successfully reacclimate to society. The same debate now echoes over the ethical merits of Utah’s brand-new white collar registry, which flew through the Legislature with a 65-7 vote of approval from the House and a unanimous vote of approval from the Senate.
The initiative began with H.B. 378. The bill, drafted by attorney Susan Allred, was sponsored by Rep. Mike K. McKell (R-Spanish Fork) and Sen. Curtis S. Bramble (R-UT). Among its other key provisions, the bill “authorizes the Office of the Attorney General to develop, operate, and maintain the Utah White Collar Crime Offender Registry website.” The bill was signed by Gov. Gary Herbert on March 24, 2015.
Even prior to its approval, the bill garnered strong support from Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, who described white collar crime in Utah as an “epidemic,” reminding reporters that while “physical wounds [from violent crimes] heal,” financial losses “can forever deplete your life savings.” Reyes also lamented Utah as a “rich environment for predatory behavior and financial crimes,” adding that “Utah is sadly known for its high level of financial vulnerability to affinity fraud.”
The bill’s sponsors also felt strongly about the merits of their legislative efforts.
“The schemes change,” said Rep. McKell, “but the players stay the same. I’m not ashamed with the fact that we’re going to brand some of these people.”
Sponsor Sen. Bramble expressed hopes the registry would catch on at the federal level, predicting that “the registry could become a best practices for other states. (Reyes stated a similar opinion, stating he hopes the registry “becomes as ubiquitous as Yelp.”)
However, voices of dissent have also raised objections to the implications of the registry — particularly where matters of privacy are concerned.
“The government would further tag you beyond the debt you’ve already paid. It’s frightening,” said Forbes writer and former white collar convict Walter A. Pavlo Jr.
“I think it’s unnecessary,” said criminal defense lawyer Mark Pugsley, “because all of this information is already out there, easily accessible through an Internet search.”
On the other side of the country, New York defense lawyer Susan Brune made a similar statement: “You’re adding one more punishment without any real showing that it’s needed. Enough already… Google is already a pretty effective registry.”
Which Financial Crimes Will Become Registrable Offenses?
There can be little doubt that defense attorneys, prosecutors, and journalists will continue to debate these ethical and philosophical considerations as the registry expands and develops. But on a practical level, what does adoption of the registry actually mean for defendants charged with white collar crimes in Utah?
To begin with, the following crimes are now considered “registrable offenses”:
- Communications Fraud
- Fraudulent Insurance
- Money Laundering
- Mortgage Fraud
- Securities Fraud
- Theft by Deception
- Unlawful Dealing of Property by Fiduciary
The period of registration will depend on the number of offenses, as follows:
- First Conviction — 10 years
- Second Conviction — 20 years
- Third Conviction — Lifetime
Registrants’ personal details will be shared publicly on the White Collar Crime Registry, similar to the manner in which personal details are shared on the Sex Offender Registry. White collar registrants will be identified by name, height, weight, eye and hair color, and date of birth. Details of the offense and resulting conviction will also be posted, along with a current photograph of the registrant.
Significantly, the bill will generally not apply retroactively. Individuals with former convictions will not be placed on the new registry, provided they meet the following conditions:
- They were convicted between December 31, 2005, and March 24, 2015, when the bill was approved.
- They have followed all court orders, such as appearing at hearings.
- They have paid all restitution owed to victims.
Qualified registrants will have the opportunity to petition the court for removal from the registry.
During the summer of 2014, Utah served as the setting for one of largest white collar criminal trials in the country’s history. In June, U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups dismissed felony fraud charges against alleged Ponzi scheme mastermind Rick Koerber, who denied scamming investors out of more than $48 million. In August, Judge Waddoups dismissed the charges with prejudice, citing prosecutorial misconduct.
If you or someone you love has been charged with embezzlement, fraud, or other financial crimes in Utah, the defense attorneys of Overson Law LLC may be able to help. To arrange for a free and completely private legal consultation, call our law offices right away at (801) 733-1308.