Mounting a criminal defense can be expensive, but it grows in cost the longer you wait to defend yourself. For instance, in the case of one former billionaire, he spent over $40 million trying to defend himself against charges of insider trading. That doesn't count the ongoing appeal. In the meantime, he's in prison. Another person involved is covered by his company, but he's spent close to $30 million. He is, though, out of prison pending an appeal.
What does it cost a normal person who is charged with or accused of a white collar crime? It depends on how you want to fight the case. If you're willing to take a plea deal, your defense may not be as extensive, and you may spend less. Pleading guilty can cost a lot, too, though, so that isn't a way out of the expenses, either. It also depends on the crime. If it's a small-business-related fraud, it may not be as high-value as one involving a major multi-billion-dollar-a-year company.
Is the expense worth it? Yes. When you fight against the U.S. Government, the odds are stacked against you. Some attorneys work on contingency fees. These are cases where the attorneys don't get paid unless you're acquitted or win your case, and others take payments over time.
The cost of these attorneys needs to be understood, though; they're battling against the government, which has tools at its disposal like the ability to seize your assets or to use a secret grand jury. Your attorney fights against this treatment, so you can stay in control of your life until a resolution is reached in your case.
Source: Forbes, "The High Cost Of Mounting A White-Collar Criminal Defense," Walter Pavlo, accessed July 21, 2016