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Understanding the crime of embezzlement in Texas

by | Nov 14, 2015 | White Collar Crimes

On behalf of Dan Guthrie

Embezzlement is a common and serious crime. Since many people can find themselves in situations where they can be accused of the crime, it important for everyone to have a basic understanding of it.

When the term “embezzlement” comes to mind, you may think of your favorite crime caper, but not a real life occurrence. However, embezzlement is a crime that occurs quite often in day-to-day situations. In real life, those accused of embezzlement are normal people, not the criminal masterminds depicted in movies.

In a recent example, a human resources director in California was convicted of embezzling more than $1.24 million and sentenced to 35 months in prison. The director allegedly took the money from her employer’s payroll and gave it to her son, a worker at the one of the employer’s properties in Texas, under the guise of a car allowance. After the son had left the company, the director reinstated him in the company’s payroll system and had the “car allowance” wired to her son’s bank account or an account the two shared.

According to court documents, the proceeds of the scheme were used to pay off a loan, remodel a house, pay off credit cards and a mortgage and purchase a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. As part of her sentencing, the director was ordered to pay restitution for the money taken.

Basics of embezzlement

Although embezzlement is a common crime, many people are not sure of how it differs from simple theft. Although embezzlement is a form of theft, the two crimes differ slightly. In theft or larceny, the person committing the crime comes into possession of the property in a secret or illegal manner. However, in embezzlement, the perpetrator of the crime has full legal access to the property, but not the legal ownership of it.

Due to the nature of the crime, embezzlement mainly occurs in situations where there is a relationship of trust between the owner of the property and the perpetrator. As in the example above, many such cases occur when the perpetrator handles employer or customer money as a part of his or her routine job duties. Embezzlement occurs when the perpetrator takes the property (which he or she has lawful possession of) and uses it in a manner unauthorized by the owner. In almost all cases, this means using the property for the perpetrator’s financial gain. In some cases, the perpetrator will use a type of fraud (e.g. phony expenses) to conceal his or her scheme.

In Texas, the penalties for embezzlement depend on the value of the money or property that was involved. Fines can range from $500, if the property was worth less than $50, to $10,000, if the property is valued over $200,000. Additionally, those convicted of embezzlement may face jail sentences, the lengths of which depend on the value of property taken. If the victim of the embezzlement scheme was a nonprofit organization, government employee or agency, or a vulnerable person over 65, the perpetrator can face enhanced penalties.

Consult an attorney

Since a conviction for embezzlement carries heavy penalties and can have life-long employment and business implications, it is important to seek the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney from the start. If you are accused of embezzlement, The Law Offices of Dan C. Guthrie, Jr. can work with prosecutors to secure an outcome that will protect your reputation and minimize the negative outcomes of the charges.