Elements of a Embezzlement Charge
Widely considered the most common white-collar crime, embezzlement is a charge that should never be taken lightly. Considered a federal crime, it can lead to severe penalties if convicted, including years in prison and large fines. But in addition to these penalties, those convicted or simply accused of the crime find their reputations can be ruined very quickly. Because of this, once a person is charged with embezzlement, it is crucial they hire skilled attorneys who understand these cases and know how to fight the charges in court. While many people assume stealing money or other assets is considered embezzlement, the fact is there are various elements to these charges that must be met to prove embezzlement did occur.
Position of Trust
First and foremost, the person charged with embezzlement must have served in a position of trust over another’s finances, whether it was another individual, company, or even a nonprofit organization. Whatever the case may be, embezzlement allegations can be levied against an individual if it is believed they committed fraudulent billing, filed false financial records, or created an elaborate Ponzi scheme. In fact, whether you are an entry-level bank teller, a corporate accountant, or a high-ranking company executive, you can be charged with embezzlement.
Acquiring Money While in Position of Trust
The second element of an embezzlement charge involves proving the accused acquired money while serving in a position of trust. This can be complex, since there is no actual crime of Embezzlement in Federal criminal law. In most situations, prosecutors will pursue charges under the terms of bank, mail, wire, and securities fraud statutes. Since each of these statutes is very complex and confusing at times, it can be very easy for an accused individual to have made honest mistakes along the way while in charge of another’s finances. Due to prosecutors pursuing these charges with the intent on gaining a conviction and having serious legal consequences imposed on the accused, always work closely with attorneys experienced in defending clients against these specific charges.
Taking Money for Your Benefit
To make an embezzlement charge stick, it must be proven that any money allegedly taken by the accused was done so solely for their own benefit and not for anyone else. While investigators and prosecutors will automatically assume this was the case, an experienced attorney who has handled these matters in the past may be able to prove otherwise. In some instances, even if it is proven money was taken from one party, it can also be shown the money in no way benefited the person who took the money. If this can be proven, it is likely prosecutors will be forced to reduce embezzlement charges or maybe drop them altogether.
Acting with Intention
Finally, the last element crucial to embezzlement charges involves proving the accused acted with intent, meaning they did so with the sole purpose of violating their position of trust and using any money obtained solely for their own benefit. Again, this is not always easy to prove. However, once you are accused, expect investigators and prosecutors to look at each and everything you have purchased during a period of time in an attempt to prove it was purchased with money you allegedly embezzled.
Penalties for Embezzlement
If you are charged with embezzlement, expect the penalties you may face to be very severe. Under Federal Sentencing guidelines, most sentences can be up to 20 years in prison and fines of as much as $250,000. Along with this, courts may often require you to pay restitution to victims, meaning you will be expected to pay back any money you were determined to have embezzled. When these cases are taken to court, prosecutors will often attempt to portray you as someone who cared little about others, and instead were interested only in embezzling funds to create a lavish lifestyle for yourself. Therefore, work with an experienced defense attorney who can protect your Constitutional rights and plan a vigorous legal defense on your behalf.
Your Life is Forever Changed
Whether or not you are actually convicted of embezzlement, your life will be forever changed. Once the allegations against you are made public, the level of trust you are able to establish with others will be severely limited. Thus, if you were working as an accountant, bank teller, cashier, or acting as the treasurer of a local organization, you may find it hard to obtain work in your chosen field. However, it is best to not give up hope in these matters. Although prosecutors will try to convince you they have an open-and-shut case against you, never assume this to be true. Instead, choose to give yourself a fighting chance by consulting with attorneys who understands the elements of embezzlement charges and know how to fight them in court.
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