When we hear the word embezzlement, we think of movies, big corporations, and the mob. The truth is, it can happen anywhere: the nonprofit, the school parent teacher group, or in a small business. Whenever handling cash or receipts is part of an organization, embezzlement can happen.
The Meaning of Embezzlement?
A serious crime, embezzlement refers to someone who is entrusted with managing funds for another person or for an organization and then steals the money for his or her own benefit. The foundation of an embezzlement situation is that the defendant must have had legal access to the funds and used it as his or her own money; the accused must have had no legal ownership to any of the money or property.
Embezzlement can happen as a one-time activity, or the theft of property can be siphoned off, little by little, over months or even years. Caregivers of elderly or disabled adults, officers for a small youth or sports organization, even those in charge of funds for a church are frequent actors we read about in the news. The potential sources of embezzlement crimes are endless as many small groups are informally managed, or because often, the loyal embezzler has established significant trust over time and is rarely suspected until it is too late.
Charges against the embezzler may be state or federal, depending on the jurisdiction of the crime.
Circumstances under which Federal Charges are Possible
The following are examples of circumstances under which federal charges may be applied in an embezzlement case:
- When a crime happens on federal land or involves a federal agent.
- When the crime involves a defendant that has crossed state lines.
- When the crime occurs over state lines.
- When the crime involves immigration or customs violations.
Prosecutors look for four specific areas when determining whether to bring charges for embezzlement. They look to determine if the person was acting in a fiduciary manner to the victim and if the accused had access to the stolen property. They will consider if the person who allegedly embezzled can be proven to have illegally taken the property and if the crime was intentional.
If you or a loved one are facing embezzlement charges and are convicted, the state punishment is based on three degrees of theft charges. Punishments vary from felony theft exceeding $5,000 resulting in no more than 10 years in prison plus fines ranging between $10,000 to $20,000, to gross misdemeanor theft of less than $750 resulting in no more than one year in prison and fines up to $5,000.
Washington law governs the penalties around embezzlement charges. An experienced attorney can help you with a sound approach to the charges you face. It may be possible to negotiate a deal to pay back the money and court fees in lieu of criminal punishment that include jail time.
A former prosecutor, Steve Karimi can help you understand your case and help you get the best possible results. Everyone makes mistakes. We can help. Call today to schedule your consultation to get started fighting your charges.