An employee you’ve trusted for years steals money from your business. Or you, as a trusted employee, are accused of stealing money when you know that you would never dream of doing anything of the sort. Or your boss steals money from the company, leaving the company stranded in the woes of bankruptcy. We’re talking about embezzlement, and it can have major consequences for business owners and employees alike.
What is embezzlement, and what are the consequences in the state of Texas? Here’s what you need to know and the next steps available to you.
It is a type of white-collar crime in which a person or entity misappropriates assets entrusted to them. Usually, the embezzler gets ahold of the assets lawfully and has the right to use them, but the assets are then used for unintended purposes.
Typically, the most common form of is employee theft, though it is not the only form of embezzlement. It’s considered a form of fraud.
For example, if an accountant misrepresents accounting records to hide the theft of funds, that is considered accounting fraud and embezzlement.
Because embezzlement is a criminal offense, prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant appropriated property with the intent of depriving the property owner without the owner’s consent.
For example, altering books to hide the theft of funds, as already discussed, is a form of embezzlement. So, too, is the act of theft from an employer, whether you’re stealing cash, goods, or services. Transferring funds from an employer’s account to an employee’s personal bank account is also considered embezzlement.
The defendant must have acquired the property through a relationship with the other party rather than in some other manner. This must be a relationship of trust, the responsibility of caring for the asset, and reliance by one party on the other.
Furthermore, the prosecutor must prove intent on the part of the defendant, which can be difficult to demonstrate if the embezzlement began through a legitimate transfer of funds.
Embezzlement can be charged as a crime at the state and federal level. In some areas, state and federal jurisdiction of the crime overlap, such as embezzlement cases by bank employees.
When an incident can be charged at the state or federal level, usually only one charge is brought by agreement between state and federal prosecuting offices, though there may be more than one charge.
We’ll start with embezzlement laws in Texas.
In Texas, embezzlement is punished according to the value of the stolen property, broken down as follows:
Different categories also include other forms of theft. The $50-$500 category also includes theft of a driver’s license, for example, while the $100,000-$200,000 category includes theft of ATMs and their components.
If any aggravating factors existed at the time of offense, the offense will be charged at the next higher level. Aggravating factors include:
For example, if the defendant embezzled from an elderly victim, they would be punished based on the next highest offense level, with a fine of up to $2,000 and up to 180 days in jail.
Federal embezzlement is broken into the categories of property stolen. These include:
Federal fines and punishments may be imposed on a person or an organization. There are also different fines for misdemeanors and felonies. Federal embezzlement charges target theft from the federal government, as well as theft of property paid for by the federal government via contractual agreement.
State embezzlement, on the other hand, covers embezzlement by public officials of state and local municipalities as well as private individuals from other private individuals or entities. An employee who steals from a company, for example, would typically be charged by the state unless the theft involved federal funds or property.
What is embezzlement? In short, it’s a serious crime, and if you’ve been charged with embezzlement, you’re staring down the barrel of serious penalties that may change the trajectory of your life.
We are a team of experienced embezzlement lawyers who know how to defend your rights when serious charges are brought. We can help you understand what types of penalties you may be facing and what you can do to fight them.
If you need to speak with an attorney about your options, get in touch today to learn more.