Trade Fraud: The ‘Wild New Frontier of White Collar Crime’

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Federal prosecutions of shady importers have increased 900 percent over the past 16 years, but officials can barely cope with a swelling volume of trade fraud that costs the government millions of dollars in lost revenue and endangers consumer safety, according to a study in the Oregon Review of International Law.

“Countries’ borders are too vast, the volume of imports too great, global customs inspections too porous, and law enforcement resources too few for effective monitoring or deterrence,” the study said.

After compiling a database of trade fraud cases between 2000 and 2016, the authors examined 47 criminal and civil cases involving hundreds of defendants, ranging from “mom and pop” businesses to large conglomerates who had been prosecuted by the Department of Justice.

They concluded that the only way to tame what they described as the “wild, new frontier of white-collar crime” was to develop interagency teams that focused on bringing cases under the False Claims Act, a law enacted enacted in 1863 at the height of the Civil War to combat suppliers of fraudulent goods to the Union Army—and amended several times since.

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