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The Consequences of Embezzlement Offenses in Houston

Corporate White Collar

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.

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What is White Collar Crime?

Business Conference Room Scene for Some White Collar Crime

The term “white collar crime” describes a category of crimes, typically ones that carried out for financial gain. The most common white collar crimes tend to be crimes involving embezzlement, fraud, money laundering, and tax evasion.

Types of White Collar Crime

Other crimes that fall under the “white collar’ umbrella include securities fraud, insider trading, insurance fraud, and Ponzi schemes.

Securities Fraud

There are a few different specific crimes that are classified as securities fraud. One, in particular, known as ‘insider training’ describes someone who has private information about the state of a company and violates their duty or obligation by trading based on that information. Another instance of securities fraud is when a company or individual seeks investment money by giving investors false information about the financial state of the company.

Embezzlement

Embezzlement describes taking money from someone of which you owe a duty or service to, without acting on that duty or service. For example, service providers who improperly use their client’s payments to fund their lifestyle, rather than using the money for it’s intended or agreed upon purpose. Another example of embezzlement could be a bank teller who keeps some cash from customer deposits for themselves.

Money Laundering

Obtaining illegally earned money and funneling those funds through another business to make them appear legitimate is known as money laundering. Money laundering often involves several different steps to distance the funds from their original, illegal source. However, a lot of times, it is much easier to trace dirty money back to its source than it may seem.

For example, someone who earns money by selling products illegally might start an official “business” unrelated to the money they earn but claim the income is from their registered “business.” This frequently happens with people who make money selling drugs or gambling.

Tax Evasion

Tax evasion is a criminal offense where the offender attempts to avoid paying owed taxes. This can include providing false information on your tax forms or transferring property to avoid owing additional fees. A few other examples of tax evasion include underreporting income, claiming fake business expense or purposely underpaying your taxes.

Penalties for White Collar Crime

Punishment for committing a white collar crime varies depending on state law, federal law, and the nature of the offense. In Texas, a white collar misdemeanor can have a penalty of a fee from $500 up to $4,000, and you could face possible prison time up to one year. If you are being suspected or accused of committing a white collar crime, it is best to seek an experienced white collar defense attorney to help you deal with the potential outcomes of the crime in question.

Please note that this article is not meant to be a substitute for actual legal advice. While it is a good idea to do independent research, it is crucial to speak to a qualified attorney in your area. Plan a meeting with a local white-collar defense attorney to discuss your options and help you plan a course of action.

If you need a white-collar criminal defense attorney in Houston, reach out to Christopher T. Gore to learn more about how he can help represent you.