Embezzlement is a type of theft crime, but it differs from theft in that a defendant in an embezzlement case is accused of stealing money or property he or she was entrusted with managing or monitoring. Embezzlement is a serious criminal offense that can carry life-changing penalties upon conviction, depending on the value of the stolen money or property. Furthermore, if the alleged crime is committed by a government employee or a person with access to government funds or property, or if a person embezzles healthcare premiums or money from an employee benefit plan, or otherwise violates federal law, the embezzlement may be charged as a federal crime, which carries increased criminal penalties. If you or someone you love has been accused of embezzling property or funds from the federal government, you need the help of a reputable criminal defense attorney with experience handling embezzlement cases in federal court. Contact Daniel R. Perlman and his team of criminal defense lawyers at Federal Criminal Defense Pro as soon as possible, to find out how our law firm can help.
Top-Rated Federal Embezzlement Lawyers
Embezzlement cases involving the U.S. government are tried in federal court and are subject to the federal sentencing guidelines, which impose statutory minimums and maximums for federal embezzlement charges. Any time you have been accused of embezzling money or property from the federal government, you need a knowledgeable, seasoned federal criminal defense lawyer on your side who can review the charges against you and advise you on the best way to proceed with your case. At Federal Criminal Defense Pro, it is our top priority to protect your rights and preserve your freedom, and when we get involved in a criminal case early on, we are often able to keep the matter out of court and off the defendant’s record, which would be in your best interest. Even if we can’t get your federal embezzlement charges dropped altogether, we will do everything in our power to negotiate with the prosecution to secure a reduction in the charges you face or minimize the criminal penalties. Our legal team has extensive experience defending clients against white-collar crimes like embezzlement in both state and federal court, and we can help you get the best possible outcome in your embezzlement case.
The crime of embezzlement occurs when a person who was entrusted to monitor or manage someone else’s property or money steals the property or money for his or her own personal gain. Embezzlement is a type of property theft when the theft is carried out in violation of the alleged offender’s position of trust with regard to the stolen property or money. This expectation of trust combined with the alleged offender’s legal right to possess or access the property or money in question, is what sets embezzlement apart from other theft crimes, like larceny. In order for a person to be found guilty of embezzlement, that person must have had legal access to the other person’s property or money, but not legal ownership of it.
The official meaning of embezzlement as defined by the U.S. Department of Justice is “the fraudulent appropriation of property by a person to whom such property has been entrusted, or into whose hands it has lawfully come. It differs from larceny in that the original taking was lawful, or with the consent of the owner, while in larceny the felonious intent must have existed at the time of the taking.” Embezzlement can occur in any type of business relationship where a special position of trust or fiduciary relationship exists between the defendant and the alleged victim. Some common examples of embezzlement include a bank teller stealing money from a customer, a business executive or employee stealing funds from the company or from a client, or a board member stealing investor money. Individuals accused of embezzlement in California can be charged and prosecuted under state or federal law, depending on the circumstances of the case.
When is Embezzlement a Federal Offense?
Each state has laws against embezzlement and specific penalties that accompany an embezzlement conviction – usually a fine and/or jail time – but there are certain situations that can result in federal embezzlement charges, including cases involving the 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. Title 18 Chapter 31 of the United States Code governs federal embezzlement and theft crimes and there are 30 specific statutes penalizing the various types of theft and embezzlement that are punishable under federal law, including the following:
- Embezzlement of public money, property or records (18 U.S.C. § 641)
- Embezzlement of tools and materials for the purpose of counterfeiting (18 U.S.C. § 642)
- Embezzlement by officers, employees or agents of the federal government (18 U.S.C. § 643)
- Embezzlement by bankers who receive unauthorized deposits of public money (18 U.S.C. § 644)
- Embezzlement by bank officers or employees (18 U.S.C. § 656)
- Embezzlement by a lending, credit or insurance institution (18 U.S.C. § 657)
- Embezzlement from an employee benefit plan (18 U.S.C. § 664)
- Embezzlement in connection with healthcare (18 U.S.C. § 669)
Even stealing artwork can result in federal embezzlement charges, if the artwork is an “object of cultural heritage” that is stolen or obtained by fraud from the “care, custody or control of a museum” (18 U.S.C. § 668).
Penalties for an Embezzlement Conviction
The criminal penalties assigned to federal embezzlement charges can vary a great deal depending on the type and value of the property the defendant is accused of embezzling and other factors surrounding the alleged crime, including the duration of the theft, the amount of trust that was placed in the person accused of the theft, and whether or not the defendant has a criminal record. For instance, pursuant to 18 U.S. Code § 641, “Embezzlement of public money, property or records,” any person who embezzles money or property belonging to the U.S. government or one of its agencies that is valued at more than $1,000 is subject to a potential fine of $250,000 and/or a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. If the money or property is worth $1,000 or less, the punishment includes a potential fine of up to $100,000 and/or up to one year in jail.
There are certain types of federal embezzlement crimes that are considered more severe and therefore carry increased penalties upon conviction. For instance, the punishment for embezzlement by an employee of any banking institution operating under the Federal Reserve Act or a Federal Reserve employee (18 U.S.C. § 656), or by an employee of a lender, credit or insurance institution (18 U.S.C. § 657) includes a potential 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 $100,000 and/or up to one year in jail for embezzling $1,000 or less. In some cases, rather than the fine put forth by the applicable federal law, the court may impose a fine of up to twice the value of the money or property that was embezzled.
Statute of Limitations for Federal Embezzlement Crimes
Most noncapital federal embezzlement crimes have a statute of limitations of five years, which means an individual suspected of embezzlement can only be prosecuted if an indictment is filed within five years of the time the crime was allegedly committed. There are certain crimes for which federal law establishes a longer statute of limitations, but embezzlement is not one of those crimes.
Defending Against Federal Embezzlement Charges
Embezzling federal money or property is a criminal offense that is charged and tried in federal court, and because embezzlement is a financial crime that can adversely affect numerous people or entities, the government tends to prosecute embezzlement charges to the fullest extent of the law. That being said, the burden of proof in a federal embezzlement case lies with the prosecution, as it does in any criminal case, and in order to prove that you committed the crime of embezzlement in violation of federal law, the prosecution must generally establish the following elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt:
- You had a relationship of trust or a fiduciary responsibility with the alleged victim;
- You were entrusted with money or property by that person;
- You unlawfully obtained that person’s money or property; and
- You intended to deprive the owner of their right to the property by taking it as your own.
Potential Embezzlement Defense Strategies
A critical factor in any embezzlement case is intent. If you can show that you believed you were the rightful owner of the property you are accused of stealing, or that you didn’t commit the theft with the intention of depriving the owner of their right to the property, you may be able to successfully beat the embezzlement charges. Some other possible defense strategies your attorney may be able to use in your embezzlement case include the following:
- You didn’t steal the property for your own personal gain
- You are the victim of entrapment
- You committed the crime under duress
- The prosecution has insufficient evidence to prove the crime beyond a reasonable doubt
- The statute of limitations has expired
- At the time the embezzlement occurred, you were mentally incapacitated
Why Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney?
Financial crimes like embezzlement are crimes of misrepresentation and misappropriation, and even accusations of embezzlement can destroy your reputation and potentially cost you your job and your personal and professional relationships, whether you are ever formally charged or found guilty of the crime. Facing federal embezzlement charges can be shocking and frightening and the prospect of incarceration, hefty fines and a ruined reputation may seem like the end of the world, but with a knowledgeable attorney heading your defense, you may be able to obtain an acquittal at trial, reduced charges or minimized penalties as part of a plea deal. Keep in mind that the prosecutor representing the federal government’s case will be an expert lawyer hired by the U.S. Attorney’s office, which is why you need to make sure you have an equally skilled and prepared attorney representing your defense.
A good federal criminal defense lawyer is familiar with the inner workings of the federal criminal justice system and the federal sentencing guidelines and knows what it takes to win an embezzlement case in federal court. When you hire our legal team at Federal Criminal Defense Pro, our attorneys will conduct a thorough investigation of your criminal charges, explore all of the legal options available to you based on the specific details of your case and mount the strongest possible defense under the circumstances. Attorney Daniel R. Perlman is a former prosecutor with a proven history of success defending clients against criminal federal charges in both state and federal court, and his exceptional legal representation is what sets Federal Criminal Defense Pro apart from other criminal defense firms in Southern California. With Daniel Perlman and his accomplished defense attorneys on your side, you can significantly improve your chances of obtaining a satisfactory outcome in your federal embezzlement case.
Our Federal Embezzlement Defense Lawyers Can Help
Embezzlement is a major criminal charge with potentially devastating legal consequences that can change the course of your entire life, and the federal court process differs a great deal from embezzlement cases handled in state court, which is why you need a trial-tested federal defense attorney in your corner. No matter how much money you are accused of embezzling, if the federal government can prove its case against you, you stand to lose a great deal, including your financial stability, your reputation and your freedom. If you are facing embezzlement charges in federal court, or if you are under investigation by the federal government for embezzlement or another financial crime, don’t hesitate to retain the services of our reputable defense lawyers at Federal Criminal Defense Pro. We offer prospective clients a free initial consultation so you can have an experienced federal criminal defense attorney evaluate your case with no obligation to hire our firm. Contact our expert lawyers today to discuss your federal embezzlement charges.