The Ins and Outs of Embezzlement Litigation

This spring, one of my closest friends is studying for the exams to become a Certified Public Accountant, and we often go to coffee shops together for him to study and for me to read. We often take chat breaks, and I talk about my book while he talks about what he’s learning. Recently, we had a lengthy discussion about fraud and the role of an auditor in detecting fraud. Apparently, embezzlement is a big issue when employees have access to the assets of the business they work for. I did not really understand what embezzlement is, so I decided to do some research. During my research, I found the website for Bruno Law Offices, which specializes in defending people that are accused of embezzlement. There was quite a bit of interesting information regarding the litigation of these cases.

Embezzlement is a criminal offense, and it is more complex than just stealing money from your employer. Embezzlement happens when a person that is responsible for another person’s property uses that property for personal gain, and it’s not necessarily the same as theft. To embezzle, you need to be a custodian of assets, which means that you are not the owner of the assets but you have legal access to the asset and are trusted with the assets control. Often the offender has a fiduciary responsibility to the owner, and pre-meditation must exist for embezzlement to be prosecuted. It cannot be accidental. The property does not have to be tangible to be embezzled, either. Intangible property like trademarks or securities can be wrongfully acquired or used by a custodian to commit embezzlement.

Typically, sentencing for embezzlement depends on the value of the assets embezzled before being caught. The value of the property can change the crime from a misdemeanor to a felony depending on the type of property embezzled. If you steal less than five hundred dollars, the punishment is less than a year in prison and up to $2,500 in fines, but if you embezzle over a million dollars, it becomes a felony and is punishable by up to 30 years in prison and $25,000 in fines. There are additional consequences that are not inflicted by the courts that include the damage to a person’s reputation and their ability to be hired in the future.

Luckily for the accused, there are a variety of defenses that lawyers can use to defend their clients from embezzlement charges. An insufficient evidence defense can cause the charges to be dropped. Also, if you are pressured to commit a crime because of perceived harm, you can use the duress defense and transfer the blame to another party. If the accused is bated into committing embezzlement by the government or law enforcement, a lawyer can use the entrapment defense to absolve their victim of the wrongdoing. There are several other complicated defenses that lawyers can use to defend their clients that are charged with embezzlement. Since embezzlement is a criminal offense, the burden of proof is on the prosecution, so if any of these defense prevent the prosecution from proving your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, you can avoid punishment for embezzlement.

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