White Collar Crime Attorney in San Diego

Former prosecutor San Diego White Collar Crime Lawyer Tom Rist handles complex fraud and financial crime charges in federal and state court.

Thomas Rist, Criminal Defense Lawyer

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What Collar Criminal Defense Attorney

A white-collar crime lawyer specializes in defending individuals accused of financial fraud. As someone working in the healthcare industry, running a business, holding a position, or being a professional in any field, finding yourself under investigation by federal authorities can have devastating consequences. If federal agents and prosecutors gather evidence to charge you with a white-collar crime, the potential penalties could be overwhelming, including fines and long-term imprisonment. In circumstances, protecting your reputation will be one of your least concerns. Companies often consult a white-collar crime lawyer to navigate complex legal regulations.

Tom Rist is a federal criminal defense attorney specializing in collar defense brings extensive experience to representing individuals and businesses facing investigations and prosecutions related to financial crimes. With over 38 years of combined experience in this field, we are well-equipped to analyze collar criminal cases from every perspective. Leveraging our background in government work, we develop strategies that focus on presenting the strongest possible defense alongside our team of federal criminal lawyers. We tailor these strategies according to the facts and circumstances surrounding each case.

What it a white-collar defense attorney?

White collar crimes typically occurring within settings or involving business professionals these crimes may include fraud, embezzlement, insider trading and similar offenses. White collar crimes offenses may not involve violence. They certainly do not lack victims. White collar crimes have the potential to devastate businesses wipe out an individuals earned savings result in billions of dollars lost for investors and erode trust in institutions.

The FBI and the DOJ white collar crimes lawyers place an emphasis, on its white collar crime program, which involves analyzing intelligence and tackling investigations that often have ties to organized criminal activities. White-collar crime lawyers play a key role in corporate fraud investigations.

The role of a white collar crime attorney involves providing representation offering advice and ensuring that the clients rights are protected throughout the legal process.

Which types of crimes are categorized as white collar crimes?

White collar crimes encompass a variety of offenses that do not involve violence. Some prominent examples include:

  • Fraud – White-collar crime lawyers often handle cases involving large-scale financial scams.
  • Embezzlement – A white-collar crime lawyer can negotiate plea deals in cases of embezzlement.
  • Insider Trading – In insider trading cases, a white-collar crime lawyer provides crucial defense strategies.
  • Tax Evasion – When facing tax evasion charges, hiring a white-collar crime lawyer is essential.
  • Money Laundering – A skilled white-collar crime lawyer can challenge evidence in money laundering cases.
  • Bribery
  • Cybercrime – White-collar crime lawyers help in understanding and mitigating cybercrime allegations.
  • Identity Theft
  • Corporate Fraud
  • RICO

What’s a defense strategy used by most individuals accused of white collar crimes?


In certain situations, law enforcement may employ tactics to uncover ongoing criminal activities. Police sting operations and undercover work can walk a line between unlawful actions and gathering evidence. There are instances where threats, fraud or harassment are used to coerce someone into committing a crime they would not have otherwise committed. Entrapment occurs when a police officer induces or persuades an individual to commit an offense that they would not have committed under the circumstances. If you can demonstrate that you were influenced by the officer and would not have committed the crime, you can argue that you were entrapped.

Lack of Intention

Not having the intention is a defense when facing a white-collar criminal charge because most white-collar crimes require intent. There are two elements in an offense: 1) engaging in an act and 2) intentionally and knowingly undertaking the prohibited action. To establish the defendant’s guilt, the prosecution must prove that they acted with the intent to defraud or unlawfully obtain money or advantages. If they fail to prove intent, the defense can argue that the case lacks validity and should be dismissed.

Unlawful Search and Seizure

Evidence must be obtained legally; otherwise, it can be excluded from consideration. The defense has the right to investigate and question whether the investigation process and search and seizure were conducted ethically.

Statute of Limitations

Criminal charges must be brought within a timeframe referred to as the “statute of limitations.” The defense can raise this as an argument if charges are not filed within the time limits.

Involuntary Intoxication

If an individual was unknowingly drugged or forced into a state for them to commit a crime, this can be used as a defense strategy.

For instance, consider a scenario where an individual, unknowingly or without consent, is administered drugs and subsequently shares company information. In such a case they can argue that they aren’t accountable for insider trading because they were coerced by another party to disclose the information while under intoxication.


There might be situations where an individual commits a crime under verbal threats. In some cases, the defense attorney can assert that the defendant acted due to duress. If someone receives a message stating that their family will be harmed unless they engage in activity, their attorney can argue that they committed the crime because of external pressure and duress.


A person can present evidence to establish that they are not responsible for their behavior due to an illness or defect they had at the time of the offense. To support this defense, the lawyer needs to provide proof of a diagnosed disorder related to mood, thought process, or behavior. It’s important to note that an insanity plea does not absolve the defendant from guilt or dismiss charges. Instead, it means that despite facing penalties, the defendant could potentially be referred to an institute for appropriate mental health support.

Why do white collar crimes pose challenges when it comes to prosecution?

In some cases, it is quite challenging to prosecute white-collar crimes due to the perpetrators intentionally concealing their actions within transactions. Establishing intent in cases becomes difficult because the individuals involved are often ranking executives and managers who work closely with professional advisors like lawyers and accountants. These advisors may assist them in decision-making whether or not they are aware of the nature of their actions.

Another reason why prosecuting white-collar crimes can be difficult is identifying the parties in cases involving large corporations. The potential economic consequences of prosecutions often lead the government to explore methods of penalizing offenders. Furthermore, there is a lack of incentives for whistleblowers, which discourages them from reporting or testifying in white-collar crime cases.

Are white collar crimes easy to bring to trial?

Typically, when we hear about charges and prosecutions for activities, we expect a subsequent trial followed by conviction and sentencing. However, white-collar crimes differ in that they present difficulties when it comes to prosecution. Why? Here are some reasons why specific collar criminal cases pose challenges:

  1. Some crimes, like insider trading are particularly challenging to prove.

When it comes to white-collar crimes, like insider trading, the burden of proof lies with those making the accusations. In economic events, the accusers are the US Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). They are required to provide evidence that those involved in the crime received some benefits from either providing or receiving insider information. However, proving this can be challenging, leading to cases being dismissed due to lack of evidence.

  1. Federal Court cases take years.

Federal court cases have the opportunity for ” discovery” of evidence. This means that it can take years for each party to thoroughly investigate and present their evidence in favor of or against a defendant. The SEC is advocating for proceedings of relying solely on Federal District Court cases as it would limit discovery time and streamline argumentation.

  1. Legislative gridlock.

Legislative gridlock is another factor that comes into play when dealing with crimes that impact the economy. Politics often play a role in these situations especially when politicians are divided as they currently are. Reaching a consensus on how to proceed with prosecuting crimes, determining government involvement, and deciding penalties becomes challenging due to ongoing debates among politicians. It often takes months if not years, to reach a resolution due to the gridlock.