Naples Embezzlement Defense Attorney
Let Joffe Law, P.A. defend your federal case in Collier County, Florida
Embezzlement is the legal term for a type of theft performed by someone whose position allowed for authorized access to the money or property that was allegedly taken. The betrayal of trust that defines embezzlement also makes it a type of fraud. The circumstances of an alleged act of embezzlement determine whether people are charged under state or federal law. As a firm providing federal criminal defense, Joffe Law, P.A. can assist individuals who wish to speak privately with a Naples embezzlement defense attorney.
Embezzlement occurs when a person:
- lawfully has access to or possession of another party’s property
- converts that party’s property to personal use
- does not intend to return the property to the rightful owner
Primary elements necessary to prove embezzlement include:
- a fiduciary relationship existed between the accused and the owner of the property.
- an accused person gained access to the property through the relationship with the property’s owner.
- an accused person took possession of the property or transferred it to a third party.
- an accused person intended to take the property in question.
Who can be accused of embezzlement?
Because this crime requires a person to have legal access and control of the property that was later stolen, embezzlement cases most often involve employees, corporate officers or public officials. People in these positions have been entrusted with managing or monitoring the funds or property. Many occupations and roles take place in environments where embezzlement can occur, including:
- accountants and bookkeepers
- financial officers
- business partners
- stock brokers
- store clerks
- bank examiners and employees
- financial managers
- treasurers at for-profit, governmental or nonprofit organizations
- court officers
Do not say anything that might incriminate you. Speak with an attorney first.
Examples of embezzlement
Allegations of embezzlement often involve relatively small transfers of money or property over the course of time. This might be achieved by:
- depositing company funds into a personal bank account
- issuing payroll checks to fake employees
- falsifying records to hide misappropriated funds
- Ponzi schemes
Every community, including Naples, Florida, occasionally has cases of embezzlement in the local news headlines. For example, the case of a credit union mail room employee who embezzled $5.4 million over a 15-year period illustrates the severity of potential penalties. He was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison over using company money to buy extra stamps that he then sold for his personal gain.
The case of the credit union employee also shows that someone does not have to misappropriate just money. Embezzlement can apply to the conversion of any stolen property, such as:
- computer equipment
When does embezzlement becomes a federal crime?
State criminal codes cover embezzlement by state and local public officials and privately employed people. However, misappropriation of funds from federal government agencies brings the attention of federal prosecutors. Embezzlement of funds or property related to a federal government contract with a private entity also requires federal prosecution. Additionally, bank examiners, anyone accused of taking money from federal taxpayers or people using counterfeiting equipment are exposed to federal charges.
The amount of money involved in a case determines the severity of an embezzlement charge and its penalty.
- Misdemeanor offenses could have fines up to $100,000
- Felony offenses raise fines up to $250,000 and even $1 million in some cases.
- Felony convictions may impose prison sentences up to 30 years.
At the state level:
- Embezzlement up to $300 is a misdemeanor that could result in up to 1 year in jail and fines up to $1,000.
- Embezzled property worth between $300 and $20,000 equals a third-degree felony with up to 5 years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines.
- Cases involving property valued from $20,000 to $100,000 could become second-degree felonies with up to 15 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.
- Embezzled values in excess of $100,000 call for first-degree felony charges and penalties up to 30 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.
Federal embezzlement defenses
An embezzlement defense lawyer will initially evaluate a person’s case to see if the situation actually meets the necessary legal elements for embezzlement. For example, a person might not have had a clear fiduciary relationship or did not intend to take property or appear to take property. When evidence cannot establish one or more legal elements, the case might end.
Duress is another common defense strategy. Financial crimes generally take place within organizations where multiple officials or employees had opportunities to misappropriate funds. As a result, a lawyer for the defendant might argue that evidence does not clearly point to the suspect.
Additionally, an accused person might have been threatened with job loss or other punitive actions unless he or she performed actions related to the embezzlement. Essentially, the property owner ordered or in some way convinced the person to transfer funds, and this would not have happened without outside direction.
The importance of experienced legal representation
Serious penalties make the stakes high for people suspected of embezzlement. Even if charges are not filed, an investigation could compromise someone’s professional reputation in Naples. Swiftly obtaining legal advice or representation as soon as embezzlement allegations emerge often results in better legal outcomes. Confidential legal support is especially important before answering questions from investigators and law enforcement.