Embezzlement Charges

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The United States Department of Justice defines embezzlement as “the dishonest appropriation of property by a person to whom such property has been entrusted, or into whose hands it has legitimately entered.”

It differs from larceny in that the initial taking was authorized or with the owner’s agreement, whereas larceny requires the presence of felonious intent at the time of the taking. Embezzlement can happen in any sort of business connection when the offender and the putative victim have a particular trust or fiduciary relationship.

A bank teller taking money from a customer, a business executive or employee stealing cash from the firm or from a client, or a board member stealing money from investors are all examples of embezzlement. Depending on the facts of the case, those suspected of embezzlement in California may be charged and punished under state or federal law.

If you have been charged with federal embezzlement, or believe that you will soon be charged, contact Chambers Law Firm at 714-760-4088 to request a legal consultation.

When Does Embezzlement Become a Federal Crime?

Theft of money or property belonging to the federal government by a government employee or a person with legal access to the money or property can result in federal embezzlement charges. Each state has laws against embezzlement and specific penalties that accompany an embezzlement conviction – usually a fine and/or jail time.

However, there are certain situations that can result in federal embezzlement charges. United States Code includes 30 specific statutes involving theft and embezzlement, including:

  • Embezzlement of public funds, property, or documents
  • Embezzlement of tools and materials for the purpose of counterfeiting
  • Embezzlement of federal funds by federal officials, employees, or agents
  • Embezzlement of public funds by bankers who receive unlawful deposits
  • Embezzlement by bank executives or employees
  • Embezzlement by a lending, credit, or insurance institution
  • Embezzlement from an employee benefit plan
  • Embezzlement in the healthcare industry
  • Artwork that is an “item of cultural heritage” taken or obtained by deception from the “care, custody, or control of a museum”

The Consequences of a Federal Embezzlement Conviction

The type and value of the property embezzled by the defendant, as well as other factors surrounding the alleged crime, such as the length of the theft, the amount of trust placed in the person accused of the theft, and whether or not the defendant has a criminal record, can all affect the criminal penalties imposed on federal embezzlement charges.

For example, anybody who embezzles more than $1,000 in money or property belonging to the United States government or one of its agencies faces a possible fine of $250,000 and/or a maximum term of 10 years in prison. If the money or property is valued less than $1,000, the punishment might include a fine of up to $100,000 and/or a year in prison.

Certain forms of federal embezzlement offenses are regarded more serious and, as a result, incur harsher penalties if convicted. For example, embezzlement by an employee of any banking institution operating under the Federal Reserve Act or a Federal Reserve employee, or by an employee of a lender, credit, or insurance institution, can result in a fine of up to $1,000,000 and/or up to 30 years in prison for embezzling an amount greater than $1,000, or a potential fine of up to $1,000,000 and/or up to 30 years in prison for embezzling less than $1,000.

In rare circumstances, the court may impose a fine of up to double the amount of the money or property that was embezzled, rather than the fine set forth under the appropriate federal legislation.

Federal Embezzlement Crimes Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations for most noncapital federal embezzlement offences is five years, which realistically means that an individual accused of embezzlement may only be punished if an indictment is filed within five years of the alleged conduct. There are several offenses that have a lengthier statute of limitations under federal law, but embezzlement is not one of them.

Defending Against Embezzlement Charges in the Federal Courts

Embezzling federal money or property is a federal felony that is prosecuted and tried in federal court, and since embezzlement is a financial crime that can harm a large number of individuals or businesses, the government usually prosecutes embezzlement accusations to the maximum extent of the law.

However, as with any criminal case, the prosecution bears the burden of proof in a federal embezzlement case, and in order to prove that you committed the crime of embezzlement in violation of federal law, the prosecution must generally prove the following elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • You had a fiduciary connection with the alleged victim
  • You were entrusted with that person’s money or property
  • You illegally took that person’s money or property
  • You planned to deprive the owner of their right to the property by appropriating it as your own

Federal Embezzlement Defense Strategies

In each embezzlement case, intent is a key component. We may be able to effectively defend you against embezzlement accusations if we can prove that you thought you were the legitimate owner of the property you are accused of stealing, or that you did not conduct the crime with the goal of depriving the owner of their right to the item.

Other possible defense techniques in your embezzlement case that your attorney may be able to employ include the following:

  • You didn’t take the property to benefit yourself
  • You were entrapped
  • You were under duress when you committed the crime
  • There is insufficient evidence for the prosecution to establish the offense beyond a reasonable doubt
  • The statute of limitations on this case has run out
  • You were mentally ill at the time the embezzlement took place

Call a Federal Embezzlement Defense Attorney Today

Federal embezzlement is not a charge you want to face alone. You need an attorney that has handled cases on a federal level. You need Chambers Law Firm. To learn more about our aggressive and successful approach to defending our clients, call us now at 714-760-4088.

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