NATIONALLY RECOGNIZED FEDERAL LAWYERS
Last Updated on: 9th August 2023, 01:19 am
You hear the term “embezzlement” all the time in the news or movies and TV shows, but what actually is it? Embezzlement is a form of theft, but it’s a little different. Embezzlement is when someone is accused to stealing property or money they were entrusted with. Just like theft, embezzlement is a serious crime with substantial penalties if convicted. In addition, the alleged crime may be charged as a federal crime if committed by a federal government employee or someone with access to government property or funds, or if it involves the embezzlement of healthcare premiums or an employee benefit plan. Classifying as a federal offense would make it an even more serious offense.
If you are being accused of embezzlement, you need a good criminal defense attorney who has experience with embezzlement cases. If it’s a federal offense, make sure you the attorney has experience specifically handling these cases in federal court.
When is Embezzlement Become a Federal Offense?
Every state has its own laws regarding embezzlement and the specific penalties associated with conviction, usually jail time and/or a fine. However, in some cases, there might be federal charges. There are 30 specific statutes in the United States Code that governs these federal embezzlement charges Title 18 Chapter 31. Some of these examples include embezzlement of or from:
* Public money or records
* An employee benefit plan
* Materials and/or tools for use in counterfeiting
* Federal government officers, agents, or employees
* Bankers who accept unauthorized deposits
* Bank officers or employees
* A lending, credit or insurance institution
Or even just involving healthcare. Stealing artwork can also result in federal charges of embezzlement, if it involves theft by fraud from a museum of an artwork of “cultural heritage.”
Penalties for an Embezzlement Conviction
Depending on the circumstances, such as the type and value of property, the penalties for federal embezzlement charges vary widely. Other factors affecting the penalties include whether or not the accused has a criminal record, the amount of trust given to the defendant, and the duration of the theft. For example, anyone who embezzles money or property from the federal government valued at more than $1,000 can face a maximum of 10 years in jail and/or a fine up to $250,000. For embezzlement below $1,000, the penalty could be up to a $100,000 fine and/or a year in jail.
Some federal embezzlement charges are viewed as more severe and therefore have higher penalties. For example, embezzlement by a Federal Reserve Employee, or a financial institution governed by the Federal Reserve Act, increases the potential penalty to up to $30 years in prison and/or $1 million fine for values over $1,000.
Federal Embezzlement Defense
The government typically prosecutes federal embezzlement charges aggressively because of the serious nature and because the fraud can affect so many people.
However, as with all criminal cases, the burden of proof still lies with the prosecution. To convict you, they must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, including that you:
* Had a fiduciary responsibility or a relationship of trust with the victim;
* Were entrusted with property or money;
* Unlawfully obtained the money or property; and
* Meant to deprive the owner of their property.
Choosing the right attorney
Facing a financial crime can be overwhelming. Just the accusation alone could destroy your reputation, cost you your job, and damage your personal and professional relationships, even if you’re not convicted or even formally charged. Add the prospect of large fines and possible jail time, and it’s an even scarier situation. However, if you have an experienced attorney, you might get an acquittal, reduced charges, or lesser penalties in a plea deal. The prosecution will have an expert lawyer, so you need the same.
To fight these charges, you need an attorney experienced with embezzlement at a federal level. One of the most important factors the prosecution must prove is intent. If you can show you legitimately thought you were the rightful owner, or that you didn’t intend to deprive the owner, you might beat the charges. Other defenses might include if you committed the theft under duress, if you were a victim of entrapment, or you didn’t steal for your own gain.
The process for embezzlement cases is very different between state and federal courts, and it’s important to have an experienced federal defense attorney on your case. Even for a small amount of theft, the penalties can be severe and the government can aggressively pursue the charges. You could be facing loss of reputation, financial stability, and freedom. Before you’re even charged, if you’re being investigated by federal embezzlement charges, retain one of our experienced, reputable defense lawyers right away.
Embezzlement is a crime of larceny that involves stealing property of another person by an individual who was entrusted with the management and care of the property. Embezzlement can happen in a multitude of circumstances, but most often embezzlement is committed by individuals in charge of the money of another person or financial advisors. Some common types of financial relationships that lead to embezzlement activity include financial advisors, employees that provide financial services to corporations or companies, and stock brokers and clients.
Four factors must occur in order for embezzlement to be charged.
1. A financial relationship between the perpetrator and victim (i.e., fiduciary relationship). In other words, the victim entrusted the perpetrator to manage their property, money, or something else that had financial value.
2. The person that commits the act of embezzlement must acquire the property of another person through their management of the financial relationship.
3. The perpetrator must transfer the stolen items to a third party or themselves.
3. The individual who committed embezzlement must have done so knowingly. In order to be convicted of embezzlement, intent of fraud must be proven.
A common type of embezzlement is accounting embezzlement. Accounting embezzlement involves the manipulation of records to conceal the theft of funds. Individuals who commit accounting embezzlement are usually given possession of the property and then are later accused of transferring the funds to themselves for personal use. Keep in mind that embezzlement is not charged when an individual under-reports income and then keeps the difference. Another method that individuals use to commit embezzlement includes the creation of false vendor accounts and supplying false bills to the company that they are stealing from in order for the checks that are cut to seem legitimate. Embezzlement can also occur through financial schemes (i.e, Ponzi scheme) in which high returns are paid out to investors from the funds that received from later investors that were tricked into believing they will receive a high return on the investment.
Consequences of embezzlement vary by state. The severity of the punishment given to a person that committed embezzlement is given according to the type of property stolen as well as the value of the property stolen. Aggravating factors may also apply to embezzlement charges when the person who committed the crime when they were in a position of public trust. This includes individuals employed as public servants (i.e., employee at a bank) or when an individual targeted vulnerable individuals (i.e., elderly individuals). Many states have laws that protect vulnerable populations of individuals and often give out harsher sentences for crimes involving vulnerable populations.
Individuals who are charged with and convicted of embezzlement typically must serve jail time and pay restitution or fines. Restitution is payment to the victim that covers the loss that they experienced due to the crime committed. Restitution may include the value of the property or money stolen. If the property is not able to be valued the court may determine the amount of restitution that must be paid. Most jurisdictions punish individuals convicted of embezzlement according to the value of the property or funds that are stolen. Generally, a state will provide monetary ranges and the fines correspondingly along with prison and jail sentences for each particular range. Some states also list the types of property that lead to specific prison sentences and fines. Types of property that may lead to increased fines and prison sentences include livestock, firearms, public records, or items stolen during a natural disaster or an emergency.
If you have been charged with embezzlement or property theft, you should contact an experienced attorney with a background in criminal defense for consultation. The penalties and consequences regarding theft of property differ state-by-state. Having a lawyer aid you in navigating your particular state’s laws is imperative in creating a strong case. An experienced attorney can provide you with information regarding alternatives to punishment (e.g., returning the money stolen or another alternative the judge may provide and consider).