West Palm Beach Embezzlement Defense Attorney
Dedicated Palm Beach County federal criminal defense
Embezzlement is an offense the general public most readily associates with white collar crime. When a person commits embezzlement, he or she uses his or her professional authorization or position of trust to divert funds and use the money for an unauthorized purpose. The crime may be committed by anyone who has been entrusted with access to an organization’s funds. Theft or misappropriated use of property may also be considered embezzlement. If the U.S. government is connected to the person’s job, the organization for which the person works, or if the situation involves national interests, the crime of embezzlement automatically becomes a federal offense. The Federal Reserve Bank and all federally insured financial institutions are examples of workplaces within which an employers may face federal charges is he or she is convicted of misappropriating an amount of money or property that is worth more than $1,000 in value.
Proving federal embezzlement in Florida
Prosecutors must prove several elements to obtain an embezzlement conviction in federal court. In addition to proving the individual is linked to the theft or misappropriation of federal property, the prosecution must establish that the value of the property exceeds $1,000. Federal prosecutors are also required to establish that the defendant knowingly and willingly misappropriated the property in a manner that was inconsistent with the victim’s rights and benefits. Defendants in bank embezzlement cases may be charged and sentenced under federal law for misplacing funds or property that is valued at less than $1,000. In addition to employees who work for federally insured banks and the Federal Reserve itself, individuals who otherwise conceal, receive, or retain misappropriated government funds may also be charged and convicted of embezzlement under federal law.
Defenses against federal embezzlement charges
When an accused person contacts a lawyer after being charged with federal embezzlement, a Florida defense attorney conducts an evaluation and carefully examines the facts of the client’s case to determine the best approach to building a sold defense. In addition to standard pretrial defenses, there are multiple ways a defense lawyer may choose to respond to the very serious charges his or her client faces. Defense strategies vary from case to case.
Absence of intent
According to the letter of the law, a person cannot accidentally commit embezzlement; therefore, federal prosecutors must successfully prove the defendant intended to commit a crime by misusing the stolen funds or property. If the defendant thought he or she was authorized to use the funds or property and did not intend to behave in a manner that is in conflict with the property owner’s rights or benefits, the defendant must be acquitted.
Approximately 40 percent of embezzlement cases are dropped due to a lack of sufficient evidence to convict the defendant. In addition to proving the defendant stole or misappropriated the money or property, the prosecutor must also prove he or she had knowledge and intent that he or she was using the money or property in a way that was inconsistent with the owner’s rights. All elements must be established beyond a reasonable doubt. If the federal government leaves a doubt in the minds of jurors, the jury must acquit the defendant.
If the defense lawyer is able to establish the defendant was acting in response to a threat of harm, he or she may be acquitted. In embezzlement cases, there are some duress arguments that will not work. A defendant is no less likely to be convicted if he or she embezzled funds to pay off an individual or organization that threatened violence because the defendant owed a gambling debt. However, if the defendant was threatened by a supervisor with unemployment or damage to his or her professional reputation, he or she is more likely to be acquitted if the supervisor used the threats to coerce the defendant into embezzling the funds.
Penalties for federal embezzlement conviction
Sentencing for people who are convicted of federal embezzlement varies depending on the circumstances of each individual case. Whether the deferment is accused of embezzling while working for the government, at a bank, or under other circumstances factors heavily into how much the individual may be ordered to pay in fines and the length of the prison sentence her or she may receive. The value of the property or funds is also a significant factor.
- Embezzling government money, property, records, or anything else of value in excess of $1,000 is punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment per $250,000 in fines;
- stealing or misusing tools such as stamps, paper, and printing devices for counterfeiting purposes is punishable by a maximum fine of $250,000 and/or 10 years in federal prison regardless the value of the stolen items;
- employees of the U.S. Treasury Department who embezzle more than $1,000 may be fined up to $250,000 or the equivalent of the amount stolen, whichever is greater and/or sentenced to up to 10 years in prison;
- federally insured bank employees who embezzle more than $1,000 may be sentenced to up to 30 years in prison and fined up to $1 million;
- bank examiners who are convicted of embezzlement may be sentenced to a maximum of 5 years imprisonment and ordered to pay up to $250,000 in fines.
In cases involving accounts that do not exceeded $1,000, the defendant may be sentenced to up to one year in jail and/or ordered to pay up to $100,000 in fines. These cases are generally classified as misdemeanors. In addition to individual employees, organizations may also be convicted of embezzlement. Organizations that are convicted may be ordered to pay fines that are double the amount set forth by law for felony conviction, twice the amount the organization gained or the victim lost as a result of the crime, or $500,000. If the organization is convicted of misdemeanor embezzlement, the company or group may be ordered to pay up to $200,000 in fines.
Contact a West Palm Beach embezzlement defense lawyer
A federal embezzlement charge can have severe long-term consequences. Even if a defendant is able to avoid prison time, simply being the subject of an investigation can make having a career in government or finance very difficult. Hiring an experienced West Palm Beach embezzlement defense lawyer can help a person who is under investigation or who has been formally charged with embezzlement protect his or her reputation and rights as an accused person. Contact a seasoned Florida defense attorney who will handle your case with compassion while leveraging the professional resources that are necessary to win high stakes cases against the most skilled federal prosecutors. Competent, dedicated legal representation is just a phone call away.