Major embezzlement and fraud cases often make a big splash in the media, like the now-infamous Bernie Madoff scandal. While not every person convicted of embezzlement will face a 150-year prison sentence and the same kind of public scrutiny as the Madoff case, embezzlement charges can seriously impact your reputation. That’s why it’s so important to understand what these charges mean.
Our Boston white collar crimes attorney at Brad Bailey Law can help you create a powerful legal defense if you’ve been accused. In this post, we’ll touch on the definition of embezzlement, potential defense options, and penalties associated with a conviction.
What Is Embezzlement?
Embezzlement is a form of stealing, usually in the context of a business or organization. The key difference between embezzlement and other kinds of theft is that the offender typically has a relationship with the victim—one in which they were supposed to safeguard and maintain the property in question. Offenders can include anyone from a high-ranking bank executive to a cashier at the corner store: If they are accused of stealing funds or property from their organization, it is considered embezzlement.
What Is the Difference Between Larceny & Embezzlement?
While larceny and embezzlement are both criminal offenses involving the misappropriation of property, they differ in terms of how the crime is committed. Larceny involves taking another person’s property without their permission or knowledge whereas embezzlement involves taking money or property that has been entrusted to you for a specific purpose. Section 30 provides an overview of the provisions and penalties of both larceny and embezzlement.
Common Defense Strategies for Embezzlement
Embezzlement charges are serious, but they’re not impossible to defend against. Oftentimes, there is just not enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the embezzlement occurred during the timeframe and in the amounts claimed. This means that charges can sometimes be dropped or settled without ever needing to step into a courtroom.
However, if the accusations reach court, there are some defenses you may be able to make against embezzlement charges, including:
- You were facing duress or coercion, or you would have lost your job if you did not embezzle the funds.
- Your organization routinely committed embezzlement and other forms of white collar crime, and you were not in a position of power at the time the incident occurred.
- You were unaware of the illegal activity was taking place due to the fact that multiple other parties were involved in the supposed embezzlement scheme.
- You did not intend to deceive anyone or commit a crime, and at the time, you believed you were the actual property owner for the assets detailed in the embezzlement charges.
- The charges were levied after the statute of limitations. In Massachusetts, the statute of limitations for embezzlement is six years from the date of the incident.
- You took the property legitimately and for an authorized purpose.
While your defense may vary, and it may not ultimately be able to prevent a conviction, providing a solid legal defense can help mitigate long-term consequences.
Penalties of an Embezzlement Conviction
Is Embezzlement a Misdemeanor or a Felony?
Similar to larceny, punishment for embezzlement convictions is based on the value of what was taken. If the property embezzled was under $250, it is most likely to be considered a misdemeanor—punishable by a maximum fine of $300 or imprisonment for no more than 1 year. If the property embezzled was over $250 or involved firearms, it is often considered a felony.
Felony embezzlement convictions are punishable by:
- State imprisonment for no more than 5 years, or
- A fine of no more than $25,000 and imprisonment for no more than two and a half years
With the right Boston white collar crimes lawyer, you can act to protect your reputation and your resources from claims of embezzlement—protecting your future in the process. Contact Brad Bailey Law at (617) 500-0252 to speak with our skilled and aggressive defense team. We have more than 35 years of proven experience in white collar crime cases at both the federal and state level.