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What Is a White-Collar Crime?

White-collar crimes are non-violent crimes committed by a business professional who has breached the trust of a company for economic gain. White-collar crimes include theft, fraud, embezzlement, counterfeiting and other fraudulent schemes.

What is Embezzlement?

Embezzlement in the State of Texas does not have its own Penal Code law, instead, it is categorized under the Penal Code for theft. Theft is defined as the appropriation of another person’s property with the intent to defraud or deprive them of it. Embezzlement can also include goods or services that they were entrusted to manage or hold; not just money alone. Embezzlement can occur regardless of whether the money is kept by the person taking it or transferred to a third party.

Embezzlement is a white-collar crime, but that does not mean it cannot happen in any other type of industry. The key element in embezzlement is fraud.

What Types of Embezzlement are There?

Embezzlement is commonly thought of as financial theft by an employee and mostly because this is the most common type of embezzlement seen. This can happen when there is a special trust built between the two parties, such as a bank teller and their client. Another example of this could be a business owner trusting their accountant to manage the business books and the accountant altering the books to steal small portions of money.

Embezzlement can also include theft of services, as these are goods provided by the company. This can be altering your water or gas meter with a magnet, so you do not have to pay a higher bill to the water or electric company at the end of the month. This would be stealing money from a company, as you would be taking goods from a company without their consent or knowledge.

Who is at Risk and When does Embezzlement Happen?

Embezzlement most commonly happens in financial institutions such as banks, credit unions, insurance companies and mortgage companies, to name a few. Other institutions that can be at risk of embezzlement are churches and non-profit organizations, as they could have weaker business control over money. And while not as common as other companies, these are still at risk: healthcare organizations, manufacturing plants, real estate agencies, education institutions and the government.

Family and the elderly are also at risk of embezzlement by their own family or outsiders. For example, a famous comedian Dane Cook had millions of dollars stolen by his half-brother Darryl McCauley. Darryl was the business manager for his brother and as such, he had access to Dane’s finances that allowed him to steal and hide it from his brother.

The elderly are at risk because they rely on their family and/or a caregiver to help them with their financial needs, whether it be depositing their social security checks or helping to pay for their everyday needs. An example of the elderly being taken advantage of is imagine a grandmother giving her family $100 to buy groceries and every time they went out instead of spending the full $100 they only spent $80.

Embezzlement happens when an employee alters the accounting books to conceal income and takes the extra money for themselves, outright stealing the money without the company’s knowledge, creating receipts for transactions that never happened and using the money outside the company’s knowledge for personal use.

Famous Embezzlement Cases in America

According to the U.S Security and Exchange Commission (SEC), a man named Robert Vesco was a financier that embezzled approximately $224 million. But he fled the country before he could ever stand trial for these allegations. The Security and Exchange Commission later tracked him down in Cuba, but the country refused to extradite him and Robert Vesco spent his days living in Cuba off the money he had stolen.

Another big embezzlement that happened in America was at the First National Bank of Chicago, in March of 1998. Four bank employees stole almost $70 million. There were plans made to send the money to “dummy” accounts in Australia.

Dummy accounts are created mainly because they are anonymous and untraceable. Merrill Lynch, the investment company, realized $20 million was missing from their accounts and reported it to the FBI. So, the four employees were caught before they could escape with the money.

A small embezzlement case that is still an ongoing issue is the Girl Scout embezzlement case. These cases normally involve less than $10,000. These were cases of adults stealing money from the girl scout cookie sales. This hurt the support of the troops’ local organizations and activities that were created for the children.

Penalties and Consequences for Embezzlement

Embezzlement is a serious crime that holds serious consequences and the consequences increase as the amount of money or value stolen increases.

These consequences are:

  • Up to $1,500 is considered a misdemeanor and a one year sentence in jail.

  • $1,500-$20,000 is considered a felony with a two year sentence in jail.

  • $20,000-$100,000 is a 3rd-degree felony with a 2-10 year sentence in prison.

  • $100,000-$200,000 is a 2nd-degree felony with 2-20 years in prison.

  • $200,000+ is a 1st-degree felony with a sentence of 5-99 years in prison.

Embezzlement can both be tried as both a criminal case but also as a civil case and as such you might be ordered to pay restitution. Restitution is money paid to the other party to help them regain their losses and allow them to go back to their normal lifestyle. In most cases of embezzlement, restitution is hardly enough as the money stolen is normally of a sizable amount and so jail time will still have to be served.

Enhanced Penalties

These penalties are aggravating factors that are considered when a judge is giving out their sentencing; these factors are considered enhanced penalties. One type of factor can be if the other party was an elderly person. Stealing money from the elderly is most likely to increase the category of punishment given out. If it was originally a misdemeanor class C, then it could go to a misdemeanor class A or B.

It is also the same as if you worked as a public servant and embezzled money from the state or federal government, it would most likely jump up from a felony to the next level of a 3rd-degree felony and your charges would be considered worse. If money embezzled was from a nonprofit organization, the penalty can be enhanced because of this.

The Criminal Procedure of Embezzlement

To briefly sum up the criminal procedure of embezzlement; after a complaint is made by a company an arresting officer will be sent to arrest you. After you become arrested and the officer reads you your Miranda Rights, the officer will also tell you why you are being arrested and you will then be taken to the police or sheriff’s department and be booked. A court date will then be scheduled. This first court appearance is called the arraignment hearing. In this arraignment, the court will inform you of the charges being brought against you and you will be given the chance to give your plea. After the arraignment hearing is heard and considered by the court, you will be given a Pretrial date and time to appear.

At the Pretrial you will be allowed to present your evidence and a plea bargain can possibly be made. This is when restitution might be asked by the other party, also known as the plaintiff. However, restitution can also be ordered by the judge at a different time, as well. If a deal is not reached, then the next step is the judge will set your case for trial and you will have to go to trial before a jury. This is when you will need the best defense lawyer who can help you fight the court trial. Please know that at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we have professional and knowledgeable attorneys who specialize in criminal cases who are experienced in building a defense that suits your needs and will be working in the best interest of you to obtain the best possible outcome that will benefit you.

Defenses That Can be Used for Embezzlement

The most important defense is to prove the lack of intent for the crime. If the intention was never there, then a crime was not committed. Always remember you are considered innocent until proven guilty. It was merely an accident that happened. Accidents happen all the time with no ill intention of depriving someone of their assets. It could be something as simple as a miscalculation, allowing the other party to think they had more money than they did. Although this mistake is still costly to the other party, it was simply an unfortunate accident that harbored no ill intent on stealing from them.

Another defense could be consent. This is where the other party agreed to the money or goods being used for personal use. This could happen when you are at work and your boss gave you a bonus and he or she forgot to record the transaction in the books, making it look like money was taken. Another example is, a verbal agreement between you and your boss and/or the other party who allowed you to have a certain portion of money and later your boss and/or the other party went to look for the money and noticed it was missing; thinking it was embezzled by you or someone else.

Need Help? Call Us Now!

Do not forget when you or anyone you know is facing a criminal charge of embezzlement, you have us: the Law Office of Brian Fagan, by your side to help you build the best defense case!

We will work to obtain the best possible outcome that will benefit you. Therefore, do not hesitate to call us if you find yourself or someone you know who is being charged with embezzlement. It is vital to have someone explain to you the consequences of the charge and guide you in the best possible way.

Here at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we have professional and knowledgeable criminal attorneys who are experienced in building a defense that suits your needs for the best possible outcome.

We offer complimentary consultations for your convenience via Zoom, phone or in person. Call 281-810-9760 to schedule your appointment today.

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