DC Embezzlement Lawyer

Embezzlement is a type of crime often referred to as “white collar,” which means it is an illegal act that is not violent and that is financially motivated. Many people believe that white collar crimes like embezzlement are less serious than other types of crime simply because no one gets physically hurt. However, these crimes can cause serious financial damage to individuals and companies and can mean serious repercussions for anyone accused or charged with such crimes. If you have been charged with embezzlement in Washington, DC, you will need the services of a dedicated DC embezzlement lawyer.

Embezzlement Attorney in DCAn attorney experienced with these cases understands that complications often arise from the fact that embezzlement schemes are often complex and may run for years. According to professional security experts, the average embezzlement scheme takes an average of five years to discover, so embezzlement cases often involve a large amount of money. In 2012, major embezzlement losses totaled approximately $735 million, with the average case involving around $1.4 million. For this reason, prosecutors take embezzlement cases very seriously and defendants charged with embezzlement may face harsh penalties.

Examples of Embezzlement

To be convicted of embezzlement, a prosecutor must prove that you took another person’s property or money without their permission. However, embezzlement differs from theft because an embezzler had permission to have temporary possession of whatever they steal. Instead of returning the property or money to the rightful owner, embezzlers decide to keep it and permanently deprive the owner of it. Embezzlement may arise out of a wide variety of circumstances. Some common examples of embezzlement include:

  • A bank teller or store cashier taking money from the register they operate.
  • Someone who is in charge of a family member’s money takes some money for himself.
  • Employees falsifying records and books to take corporate money for themselves.
  • Investment brokers who fail to invest client’s money and instead keep it.
  • Ponzi schemes, in which brokers pay investors with money from new investors and the broker takes the profits for himself.

Embezzlement does not only arise in high profile, corporate settings. In fact, one female bookkeeper in a small town in Illinois was sentenced to almost 20 years behind bars for embezzling approximately $53 million of the town’s funds by falsifying records since 1991.

Penalties for Embezzlement in DC

As is the case with other theft crimes, the severity of the potential penalties for an embezzlement conviction in Washington, DC depends on value of property or assets taken. A defendant accused of embezzling less than $1,000 will face charges of theft in the second degree and possible fines up to $1,000, time in jail up to six months, or both. If the value is $1,000 or more, a defendant will face charges of theft in the first degree and potential fines up to $5,000, up to 10 years in prison, or both. A defendant who has prior theft convictions on their records will likely face an enhanced sentence with mandatory minimum jail time. Embezzlement may also be charged under federal criminal laws if any government money or property paid for by the government is involved. Furthermore, embezzlement from a bank, credit, insurance, or other type of lending institution is also a federal offense. Federal embezzling penalties differ based on the specific circumstances of the case, but penalties may include fines up to $250,000 or the amount embezzled, as well as up to 30 years behind bars. Federal criminal statutes define embezzlement and codify the potential penalties as follows:

  • Federal court employees who have been accused of embezzling funds face potential penalties of up to $1,000, are subject to imprisonment for up to one year, or may suffer both penalties. If the amount is greater than $1,000, the fine can range up to $250,000, or the amount that was allegedly embezzled, whichever is greater. Officers of the court may also face imprisonment for up to 10 years. In certain situations, both penalties may be ordered by the court. See U.S. Code Section 645.
  • Individuals not authorized as depositaries of public funds who knowingly receive public money on deposit, as a loan, or in any other way other than in payment of a debt of the United States, and then are alleged to have used the funds or money illegally may be charged with embezzlement.  The fine for embezzling more than $1,000 can be up to $250,000, or the amount embezzled, whichever is greater. A person convicted on such a charge could also be imprisoned for up to 10 years. If the amount is less than $1,000, the fine can range up to $1,000 and the offense can also carry a penalty of up to one year of incarceration, or both, as defined by U.S. Code Section 644.
  • Individuals who embezzle money, property, or records from the United States that is worth in excess of $1,000 is subject to a $250,000 fine, 10 years in prison, or both. If the records, property, or money is worth less than $1,000, the individual is subject to a fine of up to $100,000, up to one year in prison, or both, per U.S. Code Section 641.
  • American agents, officers and employees may be accused of embezzlement in a number of scenarios. If the amount of money that was allegedly embezzled is valued at more than $1,000, potential penalties can include a fine of up to $250,000, or the amount embezzled, whichever is greater. Those convicted of such crimes may also face up to 10 years in prison. If the amount embezzled is valued at less than $1,000, the penalties could include up to 12 months in prison and/or fines of up to $1,000. This is codified in U.S. Code Section 643.
  • People accused of using or possession certain tools commonly used in the crime of embezzlement may be subject to fines of up to $250,000, 10 years in prison, or both. See U.S. Code Section 642.

Why you should contact a Washington DC criminal defense attorney

Embezzlement convictions can carry severe penalties. If you have been charged with embezzlement, there are several defenses you may assert to avoid conviction. Embezzlement cases can be very complicated, and presenting evidence for your defense will likely require thorough investigation and knowledge of criminal court rules and procedures. You always want to have an experienced embezzlement defense attorney on your side. If you are facing embezzlement charges, do not hesitate to contact a DC embezzlement lawyer at Price Benowitz as soon as possible so that they may begin working on your case.