What is embezzlement?
Embezzlement is a type of property theft that occurs when someone who is entrusted to handle or manage that property steals all or part of it. This can include material items of monetary value, or no monetary value, as well as money itself. Theft is considered embezzlement when the defendant had legal access and responsibility for someone else’s property when it was stolen.
For example, when you take money from someone, it is considered stealing. However, a bank teller keeps money that they were in charge of depositing on behalf of a customer, is embezzlement.
The bank teller had legal access to that money and was entrusted with making sure it was handled safely.
Embezzlement takes place in many industries, not just banking. For instance, funeral home operators taking items that were intended to be buried with the deceased is also considered embezzlement. Investors who take investment money and use it for any purpose other than the intended investment are also guilty of embezzlement.
Examples of embezzlement in Houston
Houston is not immune to embezzlement cases in the community.
In November 2017 it was discovered that a minister of Houston’s First Baptist Church had stolen over $800,000 from the church over six years. Jerrel Altic took money by forging payments from the church to fund his family trips as well as his doctorate. In June 2019 he was sentenced to ten years in prison for his crimes.
In April 2019, the president of Klein Soccer Club, a Houston kids soccer league, was accused of stealing $204 thousand from the kids club. The club’s Board of Directors filed a lawsuit against their then-president Troy Brooks after they discovered he had been allegedly siphoning money from their organizational funds into his own accounts for years.
Board members say he siphoned money for about three years. He changed the configuration of the club’s third-party payment system to go directly into his accounts when parents made payments for their children’s soccer fees.
While an indictment for Brooks is coming later this year, Texas law states that embezzlement cases involving more than $200,000 in stolen money or property is considered a 1st-degree felony. Brooks could face 5 to 99 years in state prison.
Penalties for Embezzlement
In Texas, there are several penalties for embezzlement, depending on the circumstances of the case. The value of the goods or cash stolen is what determines the severity of the punishment under Texas law. Additionally, if you are a public servant and commit embezzlement, you may face a more severe penalty.
Here is a brief overview of the punishments allocated based on the value of goods stolen.
- Up to $1,500 is a misdemeanor and could result in up to one year in jail
- $1,500 to $20,000 is considered a state jail felony, and penalties include up to two years in state jail
- $20,000 to $100,000 is a 3rd-degree felony with punishment ranging from 2 to 10 years in prison
- $100,000 to $200,000 is a 2nd-degree felony, and the accused could face 2 to 20 years in state prison
- More than $200,000 is 1st-degree felony with a punishment of 5 to 99 years in state prison.
If you are in Houston looking for a criminal defense attorney, or advice on legal issues including embezzlement or other white collar crimes, contact Christopher T. Gore for more info on how he can represent your case.
Before making any legal decisions, always consult a licensed attorney in your area. While this article might be useful in helping you understand the laws and penalties around embezzlement, it’s not intended to be a replacement for actual legal advice. Every situation is unique, and you need to find legal advice that is specific to your circumstances.