Embezzlement is stealthy, planned, and methodical theft. It’s often so complicated that innocent people are accused of embezzlement. If you are charged with an embezzlement crime in Florida, you must contact a Tampa embezzlement attorney at once for the legal help you will need.
It is not easy to dispute an embezzlement charge, even if you are innocent of the charge and you’re represented by a good defense lawyer. However, if you will keep reading this brief discussion of embezzlement laws in Florida and your rights, you will learn:
- how embezzlement is defined under Florida law
- why embezzlement charges are sometimes brought against innocent people
- how a Tampa embezzlement lawyer will defend you against an embezzlement charge
What Constitutes Embezzlement in Florida?
If a person takes money or property, does not have the owner’s permission, and intends to keep that money or property, it’s theft. However, if the owner has asked someone to hold or watch his or her money or property, and that person steals it, that person is committing embezzlement.
Embezzlement is a type of fraud. For example, a volunteer who handles a non-profit’s finances could steal the funds and create paperwork to cover up the theft. A financial advisor could embezzle funds from clients, or a cashier could embezzle cash from his or her employer.
Embezzlers are usually cautious about concealing their crimes. They may take only a small fraction of the money or property available to them in order to reduce any chance of detection. Unless a victim’s accounting is meticulous, the embezzlement may not be discovered quickly.
Almost anyone may become a victim of embezzlement, but financial institutions are the most common and most tempting targets. Embezzlement is a federal crime if it is committed against a bank or against an agency regulated or owned by the federal government.
Who May Be Charged With Embezzlement?
Embezzlement is betrayal, so people who are in positions of trust are more frequently charged, framed for, and sometimes convicted of embezzlement. Accountants, attorneys, elected officials, trustees, and bankers are often charged with and are sometimes guilty of embezzlement schemes.
Anyone who has been trusted to watch or care for someone else’s money or property could be accused of embezzling that money or property, and anyone who trusts another person to watch or care for his or her money or property could become an embezzlement victim.
How Do Embezzlers Operate?
How do embezzlers commit their crimes? Usually, an embezzler forges or alters financial accounts to “skim” assets “off the top” and then conceals those assets. In some cases, an embezzlement crime may not be uncovered until a thorough financial audit has been conducted.
As mentioned previously, innocent people can be accused of embezzlement because it is a complicated criminal offense. Misunderstandings or mistakes may trigger wrongful charges, and embezzlers often leave “evidence” that frames or points blame at a person who is innocent.
If you are facing an embezzlement charge in Florida, in order to win a conviction, the state must prove that you are guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt,” but your defense attorney will work aggressively to cast doubt on the evidence that the state presents against you.
How Are Embezzlement Crimes Charged in Florida?
In the State of Florida, the exact charge that an embezzlement defendant faces usually depends on the amount of cash or the value of the assets that were allegedly stolen. In most cases:
- Embezzling cash or property worth $100,000 or more is a first-degree felony.
- Embezzling from $20,000 up to $100,000 of cash or property is a second-degree felony.
- Embezzling from $300 up to $20,000 of cash or property is a third-degree felony.
- Embezzling from $100 up to $300 of cash or property is a first-degree misdemeanor.
- Embezzling cash or property worth less than $100 is a second-degree misdemeanor.
However, Florida’s embezzlement laws also include a number of details and exceptions. For example, the embezzlement of the following items is charged as a third-degree felony without regard to the value of the item:
- a firearm
- a fire extinguisher
- a stop sign
- a will or any other testamentary instrument
- a commercially-farmed animal
- any amount of citrus fruit consisting of at least two thousand pieces
Embezzlement is considered a serious crime in Florida. Even for a second-degree misdemeanor, a conviction may be penalized with jail time, a fine, and probation. If you are charged with embezzlement in the Tampa Bay area, contact a Tampa embezzlement attorney immediately.
What Are the Federal Embezzlement Charges?
In federal courts, embezzlement is charged as fraud: bank fraud, mail fraud, securities fraud, or wire fraud. At the federal level, if the property or money embezzled is valued over $1,000, it is a felony, and if the property or money embezzled is valued at or under $1,000, it’s a misdemeanor.
A conviction on either a federal felony or misdemeanor embezzlement charge can be penalized with time in jail or prison and a costly fine. If you are facing an embezzlement accusation in a federal court, you must speak to a Florida criminal defense lawyer at once.
How Do Prosecutors Convict Embezzlement Defendants?
If you regularly deal with large amounts of money – or if you are involved with record-keeping for large amounts of money – you probably make an occasional mistake. Mistakes do not make you guilty of embezzlement. To convict you for embezzlement, a prosecutor must prove that:
- A fiduciary relationship existed between the defendant and the victim.
- The defendant acquired the victim’s property or money by exploiting the relationship.
- The defendant took ownership of the victim’s money or property without consent.
- The embezzlement was committed intentionally.
To win your acquittal in an embezzlement trial, your criminal defense lawyer has to prove that only one of these four allegations cannot be established beyond a reasonable doubt.
How Are Embezzlement Victims Compensated?
Upon convicting a defendant of embezzlement, a state or federal court may order payment of restitution to the victim. An embezzlement victim may also seek to recover his or her losses in civil court by bringing a lawsuit entirely apart from the criminal prosecution.
Sometimes, simple math and accounting mistakes may look like embezzlement. Innocent persons may be charged with embezzlement for a variety of reasons, but if the person facing an embezzlement charge is you, you must have help from a Tampa embezzlement lawyer – at once.