Co-Offending and Low Status Offenders in White-Collar Crimes

Elin J. Waring, Lehman College - City University of NY

Among the most powerful criticisms of offense-focused approaches to white collar crime is that a significant minority of the offenders they identify turn out to be of relatively low social status, to have extensive criminal histories, or to be unemployed. These characteristics are seemingly inconsistent with an understanding of white collar offenders as only those of elite or even middle class status and as starkly different from other offenders. A variety of explanations of this have been offered, however, little attention has been paid to who these offenders actually are and how they came to be involved in their crimes. For example, many low status offenders may, essentially, be hired to play marginal roles in crimes that are organized by higher status individuals. Unemployed persons involved in an offense may be the spouse, child or parent of an offender who does meet offender-based definitions of white collar criminals. Using qualitative and quantitative data from the Wheeler, Weisburd and Bode (Yale) study of white collar offenders, this paper explores the characteristics of these low status offenders, the roles they play in white collar offenses, and how they became involved in these crimes with a particular focus on the role played by co-offending networks.

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Updated 05/20/2006