White collar crimes are on the rise in Florida, including embezzlement which involves the theft of assets by an individual in a position of trust or responsibility for managing or monitoring the assets of another person. Although embezzlement often arises in an employment setting, it can also involve family members stealing from an elderly or disabled relative in their care, or a fiduciary misappropriating funds from a client’s trust account. In any event, embezzlement is a serious offense that carries severe penalties.
Herman Law, P.A. is widely recognized as a leading white collar criminal defense firm in Ft. Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and throughout South Florida. We have a proven track record of aggressively and successfully defending clients against embezzlement charges.
In short, embezzlement is considered to be property theft by someone who had legal access to another’s assets, but not legal ownership of it. The crime not only involves stealing for personal gain, but the violation of a special position of trust. In an employment context, embezzlement occurs when an employee steals company assets. Examples include:
- Officers embezzling company funds
- A CEO underreporting profits
- A bookkeeper altering journal entries and expense reports
- A professional investor diverting client funds into his or her own accounts
Embezzlement Penalties in South Florida
Embezzlement can be charged as petit theft or grand theft, depending on the value of the property taken, which are either misdemeanor and felony offenses, respectively, and the penalties are as follows:
- First-Degree Felony – If the amount of money or property taken is $100,000 or more, punishable by up to 30 years in prison, a fine up to $10,000 or both, and probation.
- Second-Degree Felony – If the theft amounts to $20,000 or more, but less than $100,000, punishable by up to 15 years in prison, a fine up to $10,000 or both, and probation.
- Third-Degree Felony – If theft is $300 or more, but less than $20,000, punishable by up to five years in prison, a fine up to $5,000 or both, and probation.
- First Degree Misdemeanor – If the theft of money or property is valued at $100 or more, but less than $300, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine up to $1,000.
- Second Degree Misdemeanor – If the theft is less than $100, or certain types of property were stolen, punishable by 60 days in jail and a fine up to $500.
In addition, the court will order those who are convicted to make restitution by returning the money or property to the victim. If the assets are no longer available, it may be necessary to make monetary payments over time. Moreover, if the embezzlement occurs during a state of emergency declared by the governor, or certain type of property are involved, such as emergency medical equipment or a firearm, the charges may be elevated, resulting in more severe penalties. Lastly, federal charges may apply if the theft involves federal property or there is a relationship to federal rights or responsibilities.
Defending Embezzlement Charges in South Florida
At Herman Law, we have the skills and resources that are essential for designing successful embezzlement defense strategies. Because it is necessary for prosecutors to show that the accused intended to take the money or property, charges can be defended by showing that individual believed he or she was the true owner of the assets that were allegedly embezzled. Other possible defenses include insufficient evidence, duress and entrapment.
By collaborating with a respected network of forensic experts, we will conduct a thorough investigation, collect and analyze substantial amounts of evidence, including bank and financial statements and other relevant information, and work diligently to win an acquittal. Depending on the circumstances, we may seek to have the charges reduced.
Regardless of the charges you are facing, embezzlement is a serious crime. Beyond imprisonment and significant fines, a conviction will result in a criminal record that can permanently damage your reputation and severely restrict future employment opportunities, particularly for any type of job that involves access to money or funds. If you are facing embezzlement charges, you need a dedicated advocate in your corner. Call our office today for a free consultation.
Herman Law, P.A. serves clients in Ft, Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Martin, Okeechobee and Palm Beach Counties and throughout South Florida