White collar crime prosecutions are turning toward trade and import issues in New York and across the country. Criminal cases linked to importers have grown by 900 percent over the past 16 years, and researchers say that trade fraud is costing millions of dollars of lost taxes, fees and other revenues. The authors of one study noted that the volume of imports is so massive that it is difficult for customs inspectors to serve as a strong bulwark.

However, a wide range of defendants can be caught up in these trade fraud cases. Studying criminal charges for white collar crimes related to trade fraud between 2000 and 2016, the researchers found that some defendants represented large shipping companies while others were small “mom-and-pop” businesses. Many of the cases fall under the 1863 False Claims Act, a law originally passed to punish fraudulent suppliers of weapons to the Union Army in the Civil War.

Cases brought under the FCA can carry stiff penalties if defendants are found responsible. The main purpose behind deliberate trade fraud is typically the avoidance of taxes. However, by misreporting the goods that are being brought in the country, issues like consumer protection may come into play. This is especially true when the items involve food that does not meet safety standards or products that contain prohibited chemicals.

The study noted that trade fraud investigations can be costly and complex, involving extensive discovery and analysis of financial and communication records. It can be all too easy for a business owner to be caught up in allegations that he or she may not fully understand. A criminal defense lawyer can present a strong defense for people accused of white collar crimes, challenging the prosecution’s narratives and working to avoid a conviction.