According to a Price Waterhouse Cooper report, embezzlement costs companies approximately $42 billion annually. Among the organizations surveyed, losses of $50 million and above were reported by 13% of the institutions that experienced fraud.
Having such amounts deducted from the bottom line of a company, even if over an extended period, puts it at the risk of failing. As a result, shareholders may lose their investment, and employees can be left jobless. This is why embezzlement is considered a serious crime and comes with grave consequences such as conviction and fines.
If you have been accused of embezzlement, it is crucial that you find a defense lawyer to help get you acquitted or a favorable sentence. Read on to find out what exactly embezzlement is, what a guilty verdict entails, and how to get the best embezzlement fraud defense lawyer.
What Is Embezzlement?
Embezzlement is a form of white-collar crime. It occurs when a person’s or business’ funds are illegally taken for personal gain by a party entrusted to handle the finances on their behalf. In most cases, it involves employees such as accountants and bookkeepers, who have access to their employer’s bank accounts, checks, and cash.
Embezzlement charges can only be filed if a fiduciary relationship exists. This is a relationship in which one party places their trust, reliance, and confidence in another person who is obliged to act in their best interest.
What are the Consequences of an Embezzlement Conviction?
When charged with embezzlement, the first thing people want to know is whether they can get jail time and for how long. Such charges can either be tried as misdemeanors or felonies, depending on the amount in question. How it’s charged also depends on the state in which the crime took place as what qualifies as misdemeanors or felonies varies from state to state.
When determining the sentence for your embezzlement charge, the judge will consider:
- The amount of money in question
- The period over which the crime took place
- If you intended to embezzle funds from the plaintiff
- The financial impact the embezzlement caused on the victim
- Whether you have ever been charged with embezzlement or other financial crimes
Felony embezzlement cases are serious and complex. If you are found guilty, the punishment can be very harsh and include jail time. This is why it is crucial to hire a defense lawyer immediately you have been charged. Such sentences may involve:
- Hefty fines and restitution for the victim
- Parole or probation
- Extensive prison time
- Attending court-ordered rehabilitation courses
- Ineligibility to hold public office
- Revocation of professional licenses
- The conviction can be entered in your permanent record, jeopardizing your chances of getting employment in the future
Can Embezzlement be Charged as a Federal Crime?
Embezzlement fraud can be charged as a federal crime if the funds or assets in question belong to the federal government. As such, it mostly involves government employees and elected officials involved in embezzling public resources.
Why You Need an Experienced Embezzlement Defense Attorney
There are high stakes involved in embezzlement charges. Other than the risk of jail time, fines, and other punishments, it can also ruin your reputation and chances of getting employment. Such blows will be much softer if you become acquitted; a feat that can only be achieved with the help of a highly experienced embezzlement defense lawyer.
For the prosecutors to get you convicted for embezzlement, they must demonstrate that:
- You were in a position of trust
- You used money or property without the owner’s consent
- There was an intention to take money from the plaintiff
Only when all the above factors are proven beyond a reasonable doubt can you be convicted. In most cases, there is no question whether the accused was in a position of trust. However, there are different ways of defending yourself against such cases. This is where an embezzlement defense lawyer comes in.
The first approach usually involves proving that you had the owner’s consent to use the funds. Alternatively, they can gather evidence to prove that you were not responsible for funds misused. Other approaches to your defense that can be used include:
- Duress- When the crime was committed because of fear of the consequences of not participating, such as losing your job.
- Incapacity- The defense attorney will claim that you are not in a mental capacity to understand the crime you were committing and possible consequences. This approach is often used by parties who were under new medication.
- Lack of intent- This is used when you did not intend to embezzle, but used money that you believed was yours.
Work With an Experienced Defense Attorney
Embezzlement cases can be very complicated as culprits often have the access and know-how to hide their involvement. This is why it is crucial for both the victim and accused to hire experienced embezzlement defense attorneys. They will not only inform you of the possible legal steps, but they are best placed to defend your rights.
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