WASHINGTON — The number of federal convictions for white-collar crime rose 18% in the first five years of the Reagan Administration and convictions for other types of crime went up more than twice as fast, the government said in a report released Sunday.
The study, the first national survey of its kind issued by the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics, also found that white-collar criminals were less likely than other types of criminals to be sentenced to prison.
The bureau reported that 10,733 defendants were convicted of federal white-collar crimes in 1985, up about 1,600 from 1980. Meanwhile, federal convictions of non-white-collar crimes rose 43% from 1980 to 1985, to about 30,000.
The average length of a prison sentence for a white-collar criminal rose 20% to 29 months in 1985, compared with two years in 1980, the report concluded. The average length of a prison sentence for other types of federal criminals was 50 months in 1985, about the same as it had been five years earlier.
Tax Fraud Convictions
Tax fraud convictions of organized crime figures and drug dealers contributed to the trend of somewhat longer sentences for white-collar criminals. The study cited an 86% increase in the average length of prison sentences handed out to those convicted of tax fraud from 1980 to 1985, from 11 months to 21 months.
On the incarceration rate, the bureau found that 40% of convicted white-collar criminals were sentenced to prison in 1985, compared with 54% of the non-white-collar criminals.
The median length of a prison sentence for a white-collar criminal in 1985 was 15 months, meaning half the defendants were sentenced to less than 15 months in prison and half were sentenced to more. In 1980, the median prison sentence was a year. Meanwhile, the median sentence for a non-white-collar offender was 24 months in 1985, unchanged from 1980.
The study concluded that financial losses caused by white-collar crime dwarf the amounts lost through other types of crime.
The report said that two years ago, 140 people were charged with white-collar offenses each estimated to involve more than $1 million and 64 others were charged with offenses involving more than $10 million apiece. Meanwhile, total bank robbery losses were less than $19 million and all robbery losses reported to police amounted to slightly more than $300 million.