Embezzlement is a white-collar crime that occurs when a trusted person steals assets for personal gain. Embezzlement is unique from other kinds of theft in that the embezzler had legal access to the money or property, but no legal ownership. LegalMatch further defines embezzlement as a crime in which a person who has access to or lawful possession of money uses it in a way that the legal owner did not intend.
Examples of Embezzlement
Embezzlement can be committed by anyone who was in a position of trust in regard to someone else’s money or property, such as:
- A bank teller who takes customers’ money
- A family member or caretaker mismanaging an elderly or disabled person’s finances for personal gain
- A retail employee stealing gift cards
- Forging checks or writing a check to yourself when not authorized by your employer
- Cashing customer checks
- Faking a vendor payment
- Overbilling customers and pocketing the cash difference
- Requesting double reimbursement for company expenses
- Using a company credit card for personal use
- Stealing office supplies, raw equipment, or products – including not charging your friends for food or drinks when you work in a restaurant or bar
- Selling data or trade secrets
- A stockbroker taking money from client’s accounts
- Falsifying overtime
- A contractor taking building supplies from a property owner
- The list goes on! It is as long as your imagination.
Remember, embezzlement doesn’t always involve money, but it must involve assets with a monetary value. For example, in Florida you can be convicted of embezzlement for unlawfully taking a fire extinguisher, a stop sign, or citrus fruit!
There are almost endless ways you could potentially be convicted of embezzlement. One small mistake could change your life! If you’re charged, you need to take the accusation seriously and get legal help immediately!
Penalties for embezzlement can include fines, jail time, and additional restitution calculated on the amount of the assets embezzled. The severity of your charge often depends on the monetary value of the assets embezzled, but penalties can escalate in certain circumstances where the embezzler was given a heightened level of trust (such as if he worked for a bank or insurance company) or if the victim of the embezzlement was elderly or disabled.
In Florida, embezzlement can be classified as a misdemeanor or a felony, with fines ranging from a few hundred dollars to $10,000 (in addition to restitution). Jail time can range from a few months to up to 30 years with additional probation.
If you’re facing embezzlement charges, a criminal defense attorney can help you prepare some possible defenses, including but not limited to:
- Insufficient evidence: To be convicted, the accused must be found guilty beyond reasonable doubt. If the evidence doesn’t meet that burden of proof, the charges might be dropped, or for the same reason after trial a jury may acquit and the accused exonerated.
- Duress: You have a chance of dropping or reducing charges if you can prove that you believed that yourself or a loved one would be in danger or at risk of a significant loss if you did not take the money or property.
- Entrapment: If it can be proven that a government or law enforcement official coerced a person with no predisposition to embezzle money or property, then that person may have a defense!
- Lack of Intent: You should not be found guilty of embezzlement without proof of intent to permanently deprive the owner of his money or property. Lack of intent can be classified as:
- Mistake: If you can prove you made an honest mistake – such as depositing money into the wrong account or submitting an inaccurate expense report by accident – you have a defense. Similarly, you can possibly rely on a defense suggesting that you did not know what the money or assets were intended for.
- Consent: If it is true then you might be able to argue that the property owner gave you permission to use the assets in the way that you used them.
- Incapacity: If you can prove that you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol or otherwise incapacitated, you might possibly escape a conviction. However, without other special circumstances this is a weak argument to make to most juries.
How to Get Help
An embezzlement conviction has long-term severe consequences. In addition to having to pay fines, restitution, and possibly go to jail, you will have a criminal record. A criminal record follows you throughout your life and can impact many aspects of your future. The nature of a criminal record for embezzlement could likely cause many potential employers to avoid giving you a job or other opportunity.
In some cases, you may have to completely change your career after an embezzlement conviction. You may face social stigmas that prevent you from being respected or trusted, even within your own family.
As an experienced criminal defense attorney, Donald A. Lykkebak is here to help you address your problem in a manner most advantageous to you. When the world seems to turn against you, our legal team has your back! Contact us at 407-425-4044 or online for a free consultation.