I am a white collar criminal who stole $10 million from a Russian oligarch and was convicted of one count of transporting stolen money. I can’t speak to the thoughts of all white collar criminals, only my own thoughts and feelings at the time.
In my experience, the thought process is convoluted and confused. There has been some research on the topic and one precursor in most white collar crimes is opportunity. When I first learned of the stash I ultimately stole, it seemed so easy. I convinced myself that I would be stupid to pass up the opportunity. It felt like finding a honey pot while wandering in the forest. Would you dip your finger into it? To my eternal regret, I did.
People assume that white collar criminals are motivated by greed. In my case, at least, I was not. If anything else, I was motivated by resentment. I was so disgusted by the behavior of my oligarch employer and the corrupt way in which he accumulated his wealth and ran his empire that I rationalized my behavior as stealing from a thief. Of course, when one thief steals from another it just means that there are now two thieves where before there was only one. But at the time I justified my action by demonizing the victim.
This answer on Quora to the question, “What goes through a person’s mind when they commit a white collar crime?” is amazing.