Defending Embezzlement Charges
A recent report revealed that a member of the Fernley (Nevada) Youth Football League board of directors allegedly embezzled more than $24,000, and law enforcement has opened a criminal investigation into the matter. A discrepancy in the organization’s funds was found by the board last May, but a civil report was not filed until the board member under suspicion failed to pay the amount back in full as promised. The organization has not yet decided whether to press criminal charges.
What is embezzlement?
Embezzlement is a form of theft. Unlike most thefts that involve a stranger stealing money or property from an owner, embezzlement involves taking money or property by the person who was entrusted with its safekeeping. The embezzler has access to the money or property but does not have a legal ownership right to it. This is a crime that often arises in fiduciary relationships ― a lawyer takes money from a client trust account, or an adult child acting as caretaker for an elderly parent takes money from the parent’s bank account, or a cashier at a business takes some of the company cash.
The penalties for embezzlement
The punishment for embezzlement depends on the amount of money or property taken unlawfully. Embezzlement falls into the following criminal categories:
- Misdemeanor ― the amount taken is $650 or less; the penalties include up to six months in county jail
- Category C felony ― the amount taken is at least $650 but less than $3,500; the penalties include up to five years in state prison
- Category B felony ― the amount taken is $3,500 or more; the penalties include up to 10 years in state prison
Regardless of the charges, every embezzlement case also requires restitution to the victims and severe fines.
Are there defenses to embezzlement?
Defenses to a charge of embezzlement include lack of intent; lack of conversion of the property to your own use a mistake; and lack of evidence that you are the responsible party for the theft. Can the prosecution prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you had an intent to steal or that you converted the property to your own use? How much was taken, how the money was used, and how many other people had access to the money or property are all crucial facts in evaluating the strength of any accusation against you.
Your best defense to an accusation of embezzlement is to immediately obtain the services of an experienced and qualified criminal defense attorney who can aggressively defend you from theft charges.