White Collar Crimes: Bribery & ExtortionMarch 7, 2016
What is Bribery?
Bribery is the offer or acceptance of anything of value in exchange for influence on a government official, public official or employee. Bribes can take the form of gifts or payments of money in exchange for favorable treatment, such as awards of government contracts. Other forms of bribes may include property, various goods, privileges, services and favors.
Bribes are always intended to influence or alter the action of various individuals and go hand in hand with both political and public corruption. A prosecutor generally must show corrupt intent. In most situations, both the person offering the bribe and the person accepting can be charged with bribery.
Consider a boxer, for example: one boxer might offer another a payoff to “throw” an important fight. Or a gambler may offer to pay a basketball player to “shave” points off the score so a team loses by more points. If a referee or other sporting official is convicted or bribery, the punishment can consist of a fine and imprisonment of up to five years.
In the corporate arena, a company could bribe employees of a rival company for recruitment services. Even when public officials are involved, a bribe does not need to be harmful to the public interest in order to be illegal.
What is Extortion?
Extortion is the crime of obtaining money or property by threat to a victim’s property or loved ones, intimidation, or false claim of a right.
How Extortion is Defined
Most states define extortion as the gaining of property or money by almost any kind of force, or threat of 1) violence, 2) property damage, 3) harm to reputation, or 4) unfavorable government action. While usually viewed as a form of theft extortion differs from robbery in that the threat in question does not pose an imminent physical danger to the victim.
Extortion is a felony in all states. Blackmail is a form of extortion in which the threat is to expose embarrassing and damaging information to family, friends, or the public. Inherent in this common form of extortion is the threat to expose the details of someone’s private lives to the public unless money is exchanged. Another common extortion crime is offering “protection” to a businessman to keep his business safe from burglary or vandalism.
Extortion can take place over the telephone, via mail, text, email or other computer or wireless communication. If any method of interstate commerce is used in the extortion, it can be a federal crime.
Virtually all extortion statutes require that a threat must be made to the person or property of the victim. Threats to harm the victim’s friends or relatives may also be included. It is not necessary for a threat to involve physical injury. It may be sufficient to threaten to accuse another person of a crime or to expose a secret that would result in public embarrassment or ridicule. The threat does not have to relate to an unlawful act.
Other types of threats sufficient to constitute extortion include those to harm the victim’s business and those to either testify against the victim or withhold testimony necessary to his or her defense or claim in an administrative proceeding or a lawsuit. Many statutes also provide that any threat to harm another person in his or her career or reputation is extortion.
Contact Brian Zeiger
An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you determine whether you have any grounds for dismissal of the charges, explore plea options, or represent you at trial. Only someone familiar with the criminal court system and cases like yours will know how good your chances are for a favorable outcome. A knowledgeable attorney will take all of this into consideration, assist you in making decisions about your case, and protect your rights.
If you or someone you know has been charged with bribery or extortion, it is critical to have an experienced attorney advocating on your behalf. Brian Zeiger is an experienced criminal defense attorney who will vigorously defend your rights. Contact The Zeiger Firm today at (215) 546-0340 for a consultation, and let us help you.