Being charged with a federal crime, such as white collar crime, is different than being charged with a state crime. While there are still penalties and consequences for both, federal crimes fall under the jurisdiction of federal courts which typically have their own guidelines and procedures.
Federal investigations can be thorough and all-encompassing, often resulting in federal charges. One New Jersey man is about to discover the implication of being charged with a federal crime. He and several others were charged with tax refund fraud; he was recently sentenced.
According to the article, the men allegedly stole the identification of hundreds of individuals. They were accused of using that information to file fraudulent tax returns. The Internal Revenue Service refunded those tax returns, with the money ending up with the men. Several million dollars were refunded to the false tax returns.
As with any crime, there is a penalty if convicted of the crime. The New Jersey man pled guilty and was sentenced to 3 years and one month in federal prison. The fate of the other three involved is pending; however all have pled guilty to the tax fraud charges.
It is unclear how the IRS or federal investigators were made aware of the tax refund scheme. However it is likely that once the conspiracy was detected investigators aggressively pursued information to charge the individuals.
In some instances, when people are the focus of a federal investigation, they are unsure what the next step should be to protect their rights as individuals. Often it is beneficial to have a good defense to help minimize the risk of serious consequences further down the line.
Source: Forbes online, "NJ man sentenced in tax refund fraud scheme," Associated Press, 12 July 2011