Embezzlement is a common “white-collar” theft crime in Washington that occurs when those who have been entrusted with the care of valuable property abuse that position of power to appropriate all or part of that property for their own personal use. When the property wrongfully appropriated belongs to the United States government, embezzlement is treated as a federal crime.
Because this offense involves breach of trust, federal embezzlement cases in Washington DC are penalized more severely than those involving basic theft crimes. Talking to a federal criminal defense attorney may be an important part of preparing a defense against such charges and pursuing a positive resolution to an ensuing criminal case.
In general, federal embezzlement laws address different ways in which property can be wrongfully appropriated from the U.S. government, which includes property owned by a private entity but paid for by the government pursuant to a contract. However, most embezzlement of property from private firms is covered by state embezzlement laws.
Under Title 18, Chapter 31 of the U.S. Code, types of embezzlement specifically prohibited at the federal level includes:
In addition, there are laws addressing very specific situations such as theft of valuable artwork or livestock, or the embezzlement of funds from organizations that receive public grants or subsidies.
In Washington DC, the penalties for violations of federal embezzlement statutes vary depending on two main factors. The first is the value of the property wrongfully appropriated. In many instances, if the property is valued at less than $1,000, the crime is punishable by up to one year of imprisonment, while if the property is worth $1,000 or more, the term of imprisonment may extend up to ten years or more. In either case, the court may impose a fine in addition to or in lieu of incarceration, as per 18 U.S. Code §641.
18 U.S.C. §3571 establishes a $100,000 maximum fine for most misdemeanors and a $250,000 maximum fine for most felonies. If, however, the offense is considered to be committed by an organization rather than an individual, the maximum fine is twice as high. The federal guidelines also establish an alternative provision allowing for a maximum fine of twice the gain wrongfully appropriated or twice the loss suffered by others,. Finally, some statutes specify a maximum fine, such as 18 U.S.C. §656, which sets the maximum fine at $1,000,000 for embezzlement crimes committed by a bank officer or employee.
Because federal embezzlement cases in Washington DC involve the prosecution of federal statutes in the federal court system, they are handled substantially differently than state embezzlement offenses. An attorney with experience defending against embezzlement charges in U.S. District Courts can provide further information about how these cases are prosecuted, types of defense strategies, and how penalties are assessed.