Understanding Federal Embezzlement Charges
The federal crime of embezzlement can be very confusing to understand, and there are certain characteristics that distinguish it from the more common crime of larceny. To answer your specific questions, you should retain qualified defense counsel that has demonstrated success in defending against white collar criminal charges such as embezzlement. For a general review of the subject, however, you may feel free to refer to this page.
Embezzlement simply put is the misappropriation of property or funds that have been entrusted to a person and are misused for his/her personal gain. An important aspect to keep in mind is that the person who has been accused of embezzlement had a legal right to possess or access the property, but does not actually own the property. Generally, proving embezzlement requires the prosecution to establish five distinct elements, which are a (1) fraudulent (2) conversion (3) of the property (4) of another, when the accused had (5) lawful possession of the property.
In any criminal case, the government must establish each element of the crime of embezzlement beyond a reasonable doubt. The reasonable doubt standard is the highest burden of proof in the United States’ legal system. Beyond a reasonable doubt means that if there is any doubt that may affect a reasonable person’s belief that a defendant is guilty, then a judge or a jury must find the accused not guilty. A skilled criminal defense attorney will be able to explore all legal options available to you and mount the most vigorous defense possible under the circumstances and facts in a particular case.
Federal Embezzlement Crimes and Penalties
Title 18, Chapter 31 of the U.S. Code enumerates some of the federal laws which prohibit embezzlement. These laws cover a variety of prohibited conduct, including situations where a government employee or a person with access to government property takes the property for their own gain and scenarios where a person is accused of embezzling money from a company involved in interstate commerce such as embezzlement connected with a health care program or other employee benefit plan, livestock, medical products, banking and/or funds connected with lending, credit, or insurance institutions. For example, a government contractor who wrongfully transports government materials from one place to another could be charged for embezzling property, as could an employee who works at the Federal Reserve Bank who wrongfully steals Federal Reserve funds. Another example of a scenario covered by Title 18, Chapter 31 would be where a medical insurance program administrator wrongly steals premiums paid by the company’s employees for his/her own use rather than purchasing the authorized insurance coverage. Other conduct prohibited by Title 18, Chapter 31, includes but is not limited to:
- Embezzlement of public money, property, or records, which is punishable by a $250,000 fine and/or 10 years in prison, for offenses involving $1,000 or more. The accused faces a fine of up to a $100,000, and/or up to one year in prison, or offenses involving less than $1,000. 18 U.S.C. Section 641.
- Embezzlement of tool and materials for the purpose of counterfeiting, which is punishable by a fine of up to $250,000 and/or 10 years in prison, or both. 18 U.S.C. Section 642.
- Embezzlement by officers, employees, or agents of the federal government, which is punishable by up to a $250,000 fine or the amount embezzled (whichever is greater) and/or up to 10 years in prison, for offenses involving $1,000 or more. The accused faces fines of up to $1,000 and/or up to one year in prison, for offenses involving $1,000 or less. 18 U.S.C. Section 643.
- Embezzlement by bankers who knowingly receive unauthorized deposits of public funds, which is punishable by a fine of up to $250,000 or the amount embezzled (whichever is greater) and/or up to 10 years in prison, for offenses involving $1,000 or more. The accused faces up to a $1,000 fine and/or up to one year in prison, if the offense involves less than $1,000. 18 U.S.C. Section 644.
- Embezzlement by federal court employees, which is punishable byup to $1,000 in fines and/or imprisonment for up to one year, for offenses involving $1,000 or more. The accused faces a fine of up to $250,000 or the amount embezzled (whichever is greater) and/or up to 10 years in prison, for offenses involving more than $1,000. 18 U.S.C. Section 645.