Texas has launched a massive crackdown on crimes such as Medicaid fraud, mortgage fraud and other so-called white-collar offenses in recent years.
However, the high cost of the initiative that was spearheaded by former attorney General Greg Abbot, now Texas, governor, has come under scrutiny in recent weeks.
An editorial in the Dallas Morning News said there was nothing untoward in the expansion of the white collar crimes unit but added it was “not unreasonable to ask whether so many Texas Attorney General’s Office investigators need assault-style rifles, handguns and tactical gear to get it done.”
While expansion of personnel and computers was to be expected, the writer asked why a “dramatic escalation of policing firepower” was necessary in an Attorney General’s office that spends much of its time apprehending computer hackers or doctors and patients who are defrauding the Medicaid health care system.
The office’s police force comprises nearly 160 peace officers, along with the firearms, ammunition and intensive training that entails.
The increase in bureaucracy has continued since Abbot was elected as Texas governor.
In June, he signed a bill into law a bill that placed AG officers on the same pay scale as officers working for the Department of Public Safety. Last September, about 158 attorney general staff received pay raises ranging from $10,000 to $44,000 more a year, the Washington Times reported.
The higher salaries are projected to cost taxpayers about $17 million more over the next five years. The operating cost of the white collar crimes unit has led to criticism in some quarters.
“Highly complex investigations are not really assisted by firepower and Kevlar,” former Assistant Attorney General Rod Boyles, told the Dallas Morning News. “It’s straight, white-collar stuff, and your defendants are typically businessmen and businesswomen.”
In recent years the federal government has led a crackdown on white collar crimes such as healthcare fraud. When someone is found guilty of a white-collar offense in federal court, the sentence handed down is largely going to be determined by the federal sentencing guidelines. Although a federal judge has leeway to “vary” from the guidelines, as long as the sentence falls within the minimum and maximum penalties under law, many judges still follow the guidelines when imposing a sentence.
These are complicated cases that often lead to stiff sentences. Our firm has represented hundreds of defendants in white-collar crimes and achieved considerable success in securing acquittals for our clients or lowering our clients’ guideline calculations or persuading the court to impose a sentence that’s below the guidelines.