Embezzlement Defense Attorney
in West Palm Beach, Florida
Let our experts defend you against
the white collar crime charges you face
Embezzlement may be charged as a state or federal criminal offense depending on the circumstances. Prosecution of these cases relies on an analysis of financial records and the accused person’s behavior and lifestyle. Representation from a West Palm Beach embezzlement defense lawyer capable of managing financial investigations and accusations of white collar crime could benefit a defendant. After an arrest for embezzlement, you need sound legal advice to evaluate defense options and avoid missteps that could empower the prosecutor.
Betrayal of trust defines embezzlement offense
Embezzlement differs from theft because the people doing it held a position of trust that granted them access to the money or other valuable assets. Their authority to handle funds or other assets derives from their employment. Because access to cash, bank accounts, or other valuables is needed to commit embezzlement, the 2022 report from Association of Certified Fraud Examiners found that over half of embezzlers worked in:
- executive/upper management
Employees responsible for collecting/depositing money, issuing checks to employees/vendors, or controlling inventory or other assets devise schemes to divert value to themselves. They typically cover their tracks by:
- manipulating sales and deposits
- creating fake vendors to receive checks or inventory
- altering accounting records to hide missing funds
Do not say anything that might incriminate you. Speak with an attorney first.
When is embezzlement a federal instead of state crime?
Florida law holds embezzlers accountable with serious fines and the potential for imprisonment. However, certain situations elevate the matter to a federal crime.
Federal charges are issued against people accused of embezzlement if they:
- worked for the federal government
- accessed government property
- used funds derived from U.S. taxpayers
- worked for a company under contract to the federal government
- worked for a financial institution, like a bank or credit union
A federal criminal charge places a defendant within the U.S. criminal justice system that operates by its own rules and procedures. Representation from a criminal defense attorney unfamiliar with federal cases would put a defendant at a disadvantage. This is why some defense attorneys — like Joffe Law, P.A. — focus specifically on federal cases.
How embezzlement is detected
Organizations often have trouble spotting embezzlement because the people doing it have the tools to conceal their activities. Their job positions give them the ability to manipulate records. They might work with very little oversight.
Suspicions will eventually develop when these red flags become impossible to ignore:
- employee’s financial circumstances mysteriously improve
- employee appears to be living an abnormally lavish lifestyle
- petty cash, accounts, or inventory run chronically low
- payments to certain vendors increase for no apparent reason
An accountant, auditor, colleague, or co-worker might eventually alert a business owner or manager to the problem. An internal investigation of the financial records could reveal the wrongdoing. An owner or manager might confront the person and get a confession or improbable explanation. At this point, the business could inform law enforcement.
Embezzlers sometimes start with small amounts of money to test the waters to see if anyone calls them out for the “mistakes.” Some people stay at the level of small diversions or escalate to larger transactions. Either way, their activity can remain hidden for a long time as was the case for a Central Florida woman charged with embezzling from a veterinary office where she worked for 17 years. Investigators said that she diverted over $120,000. However, due to the statute of limitations, her charges only reflect $79,896.16 allegedly taken since 2018. An audit of her time cards and her own admission revealed that she padded the hours that she reported working and removed cash transaction records so that she could pocket the money.
Federal and Florida state penalties for embezzlement
Federal law establishes embezzlement up to $1,000 as a misdemeanor. For embezzlement above $1,000 in value, the defendant faces a felony charge.
- Federal misdemeanor embezzlement calls for fines up to $100,000 and/or up to 1 year in prison.
- Federal felony embezzlement raises fines up to $250,000 and prison terms up to 10 years.
Florida embezzlement law also determines charges and penalties according to value.
- up to $300 is a misdemeanor.
- between $300 and $20,000 is a third-degree felony.
- between $20,000 and $100,000 is second-degree felony.
- above $100,000 is a first degree felony.
A misdemeanor conviction authorizes a fine between $500 and $1,000 along with between 6 months to 1 year in jail. A third-degree felony conviction can result in a sentence of up to $5,000 in fines and/or 5 years in prison. At the second-degree felony level, penalties escalate, and a defendant may be fined up to $10,000 in fines and/or be sent to prison for up to 15 years. First-degree felony embezzlement in Florida can yield a sentence of up to $10,000 in fines and/or 30 years in prison. Retaining an expert West Palm Beach white collar crime lawyer like Joffe Law, P.A. is critical to your defense.
Embezzlement defense strategies
Every criminal case is unique in some way. An embezzlement defense lawyer examines the evidence and proposes the most feasible way for a defendant to counteract accusations.
Potential strategies could include:
- The defendant was not the only person in control of the funds in question.
- The defendant was used by other parties to shift funds and threatened with job loss if unwilling to cooperate.
- No financial records indicate that the defendant received the funds or assets in question.
As the prosecution seeks a conviction, the defense lawyer will strive to raise doubts about the evidence. To convict, the government must overcome doubts and prove that:
- The funds or assets in question were entrusted to the defendant by the owner as part of the person’s job.
- The defendant misappropriated the funds for personal gain.
- The defendant intended to take the property from the rightful owner.
West Palm Beach embezzlement defense lawyer
Accusations of embezzlement can destroy a person’s reputation and eliminate future job opportunities. Conviction easily raises the possibility of years in prison. The intervention of a federal embezzlement lawyer from Joffe Law, P.A. can ensure fair treatment. Without the attention of a knowledgeable federal attorney in West Palm Beach, you may have to make critical decisions about your defense without a full grasp of your rights or options. When faced with an investigation or arrest, do not hesitate to contact our office for support.