Embezzlement is a serious crime that involves the theft and/or unlawful use of money or property by a person entrusted with the care or control of that money or property. Embezzlement charges involving public funds, property or anything else of value belonging to the United States government or any federal agency can lead to severe legal, personal and professional consequences, possibly including a federal prison term, substantial fines and severe restrictions on future employment prospects.
If you are a bank employee or an employee or officer of any federal agency and you are accused of embezzlement, the crime will most likely be charged as a federal offense. If you or someone you love is under investigation for or has been charged with federal embezzlement, you need a capable criminal defense lawyer on your side who can help you fight the charges quickly and efficiently.
At Federal Criminal Defense Lawyers, our defense attorneys have earned a reputation for compassionate and knowledgeable legal representation. Call our firm today to schedule a free initial consultation with our legal team.
Embezzlement is a type of property theft occurring when a person who is entrusted to manage or monitor someone else’s money or property, steals that money or property for his own personal gain. Embezzlement usually occurs in a corporate setting and the majority of embezzlement cases in California involve an employee stealing funds from his employer.
Similar to the crime of misappropriation, the key element that sets embezzlement apart from a simple theft crime is the fact that a person accused of embezzlement must have had legal access to the stolen money or property, but not legal ownership of it. Embezzlement can involve the theft of large amounts of money or smaller amounts over a long period of time – the consequences are the same.
As a white-collar crime – a term used to describe nonviolent, financially motived crimes – embezzlement can be charged either at either the state or federal level, depending on the specific facts of the case. Generally speaking, for federal charges to apply to an embezzlement case, the embezzlement must have involved money, property or anything else of value belonging to the federal government or one of its agencies. Federal embezzlement charges can also be filed against any employee of a contractor or business in the private sector with a federal contract who is accused of stealing property that was paid for by the federal government.
Types of Federal Embezzlement
Like most other states, the state of California has laws in place that prohibit embezzlement crimes. According to California Penal Code § 503 PC, the fraudulent appropriation of property or funds by any person to whom the property or funds have been entrusted is a crime punishable by up to six months in county jail for a misdemeanor or up to three years in state prison for a felony.
However, allegations of embezzlement can also lead to federal charges, particularly if the crime involves the theft of property or funds belonging to the federal government or any agency of the United States. Title 18, Chapter 31 of the U.S. Code outlines dozens of statutes that cover the various types of federal embezzlement offenses. Some of these include the following:
• Public money, property or records – 18 U.S. Code § 641
• Tools and materials for counterfeiting purposes – 18 U.S. Code § 642
• Accounting generally for public money – 18 U.S. Code § 643
• Banker receiving unauthorized deposit of public money – 18 U.S. Code § 644
• Court officers depositing registry moneys – 18 U.S. Code § 646
• Disbursing officer falsely certifying full payment – 18 U.S. Codes § 651
• Theft, embezzlement, or misapplication by bank officer or employee – 18 U.S. Code § 656
• Lending, credit and insurance institutions – 18 U.S. Code § 657
• Theft or embezzlement from an employee benefit plan – 18 U.S. Code § 664
• Theft or embezzlement in connection with health care –18 U.S. Code § 669
Potential Punishment for Embezzlement Charges
Embezzlement charges are taken extremely seriously by the federal government and if you are convicted on charges of embezzlement in federal court, you could end up serving a decades-long prison sentence. The specific penalties associated with a federal embezzlement charge are based on the criminal statute the offense falls under and the value of the money or property the defendant is accused of embezzling.
For instance, if you are found guilty of a violation of 18 U.S. Code § 641 (embezzlement of public money, property or records) and the value of the property does not exceed $1,000, you could be fined up to $100,000 or imprisoned for no more than one year, or both. However, if the value of the property does exceed $1,000, you could be fined up to $250,000 or imprisoned for up to 10 years, or both. Other factors, such as the level of trust that was placed in the defendant, the duration of the alleged embezzlement and whether the defendant has a criminal record can play a role in the severity of the punishment imposed upon conviction.
It is important to keep in mind that not all embezzlement crimes are treated the same under federal law; some offenses are more serious and will therefore carry a stiffer punishment upon conviction.
Under 18 U.S. Code § 656, for example, embezzlement of funds valued at more than $1,000 by a bank officer or employee is punishable by a prison sentence of not more than 30 years and/or up to $1 million in fines. If the amount embezzled is below $1,000, on the other hand, the court may impose a term of imprisonment not to exceed one year.
Possible Defense Against Federal Embezzlement Charges
The United States government has extensive resources at its disposal to investigate and try embezzlement offenses that violate federal law, and any person suspected of embezzling government funds or property will be subject to aggressive federal prosecution.
However, just like in any other criminal case, each element of the embezzlement crime must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in order for the prosecution to get a conviction. The specific elements the prosecution must prove in your embezzlement case will depend on the charge, but the general elements that are common to embezzlement charges are as follows:
• There was a relationship of trust or fiduciary responsibility between the two parties,
• The defendant acquired the property through the relationship,
• The defendant took ownership of the property or transferred the property to someone else, and
• The defendant’s actions were intentional.
Legal Strategies in Embezzlement Cases
When facing federal embezzlement charges, you will need to show the court that there is some other explanation for the evidence presented by the prosecution at trial, if you want to avoid a conviction. For instance, if your defense attorney can produce evidence showing that you believed you were the rightful owner of the property you are accused of embezzling, or that you did not act with intent, you may be able to beat the charges.
Other possible defenses against embezzlement charges include insufficient evidence (there is not enough evidence to convict you beyond a reasonable doubt), entrapment (you were compelled by a federal agent to commit an embezzlement crime that you would not have otherwise committed) and duress (you committed the crime against your will or better judgment under threat of violence or some other negative action).
How a Skilled Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help
Criminal cases involving white-collar offenses like embezzlement and misappropriation are often complex, typically proven through a combination of financial documents, emails and bank records, and it takes the expertise of a criminal defense attorney with experience handling federal cases to beat embezzlement charges brought by the federal government. Given the serious, long-lasting consequences associated with an embezzlement conviction, which may include incarceration, hefty fines and a criminal record, having a knowledgeable federal defense attorney on your side in your fight against the federal government is critical.
At Federal Criminal Defense Lawyers, our defense attorneys have an in-depth understanding of the U.S. Code and the federal sentencing guidelines and we know what it takes to get our clients the best possible outcome in their embezzlement case.
When you hire our firm, we will carry out a thorough investigation of the criminal charges against you, deal with the federal authorities on your behalf, negotiate with the prosecution, and represent you in court, all the while ensuring that your legal rights are protected. With our federal defense team in your corner, you can significantly improve your chances of getting the embezzlement charges reduced or possibly even dismissed, minimizing the potential penalties you could face as part of a plea deal, or securing an acquittal at trial.
Contact Our Federal Embezzlement Defense Lawyers Today
If you or someone you love is facing embezzlement charges in the federal court system, we encourage you to contact our reputable criminal defense lawyers at Federal Criminal Defense Lawyers as soon as possible.
Even if the government’s investigation is ongoing and you have not yet been formally charged, it is a good idea to take proactive steps to mitigate your exposure to life-changing criminal penalties. Federal Criminal Defense Lawyers is a top-rated criminal defense law firm based in California and we represent clients in a wide range of federal criminal cases, from embezzlement to fraud to drug charges. Our attorneys have a firm grasp on federal criminal law and are familiar with the most effective.