Ordinary people quickly find themselves in extraordinary circumstances when they are accused of embezzling from an employer, organization, or public entity. These “white collar criminals” likely never imagined facing conviction of a state or federal crime. Often, they never intended to commit any criminal act. Many times, they
Other times, they feel the company owes them, and they are just taking what is rightfully theirs. However, neither of these motives excuses the law. Misappropriating funds or property for one’s personal use is a crime, and penalties include not only restitution and fines, but also lengthy incarceration in a state or federal penitentiary. For someone who never meant any harm, the prospect of years in prison can be devastating.
If you have been accused of a crime it is critical that you take swift action to defend yourself against the charges. Your first step is securing legal counsel and defense representation. The criminal defense law group of Phillips & Associates has established a reputation as one of the leading law firms in Oklahoma, representing defendants in criminal cases in Oklahoma City and across the state, in state and federal courts. We continually demonstrate successful white collar crimes defense, obtaining dismissals and acquittals for many of our clients.
When you are charged with embezzling, your personal and professional reputation is at stake. A criminal conviction can cost you your career, your financial stability, and your freedom. Call today to speak with a lawyer who can help you resolve your situation quickly and effectively.
Understanding Oklahoma Law
The word “embezzlement” conjures images of complicated, high-dollar financial schemes, but the actuality can be much less extreme. While it can certainly involve pilfering hundreds of thousands of dollars from a large corporation, it can also include taking smaller amounts--skimming from the cash register or stealing office supplies.
By definition, it is “the fraudulent appropriation of property of any person or legal entity, legally obtained, to any use or purpose not intended or authorized by its owner, or the secretion of the property with the fraudulent intent to appropriate it to such use or purpose” (21 O.S. § 1451). In other words, if you have been entrusted with the property or funds of another person, organization, company, or entity, and you use that money or property in an unintended or unauthorized manner, you may be charged.
Potential crimes include falsifying deposits, writing checks from the employer’s or agency’s accounts to one’s personal accounts, using a company credit card or bank account for personal purchases, underreporting income, creating false invoices and pocketing the payments, over-billing customers and keeping the difference, and other actions in which funds or property intended for or belonging to the company or organization are misappropriated by the individual charged.
Though embezzlement is stealing, the distinction is made because the accused actually has a right to handle the accounts and money from which he or she is stealing; however, using that money or property in an unauthorized manner or appropriating it for personal use is illegal.
In general, prosecution must prove four elements to obtain a conviction:
- There is a fiduciary relationship between the defendant and the victim.
- The financial relationship allows the defendant to have access to the money or property in question.
- The defendant illegally assumed ownership, or misappropriated for personal use, the money or property in question.
- The defendant’s illegal misappropriation or assumption of ownership was intentional.
Embezzlement is generally prosecuted as a state crime, but may fall under federal jurisdiction in certain circumstances. For example, it is a federal offense if the victim is the United States government or its agencies or a federally-insured bank.
As a statutory offense in Oklahoma, it carries criminal penalties that vary depending on the nature of the crime and the value of the stolen funds or property:
- Property valued at less than $500 is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum fine of $1,000 and/or up to one year in county jail.
- Property with a value of at least $500 but less than $1,000 is a felony punishable by a maximum fine of $5,000, up to one year in county jail, and restitution to the victim.
- Property with a value of at least $1,000 but less than $25,000 is a felony punishable by a maximum fine of $5,000, up to five years in state prison, and restitution to the victim.
- Property valued at $25,000 or more is a felony punishable by a maximum fine of $10,000, up to ten years in state prison, and restitution to the victim.
- If the perpetrator is a county or state officer or a deputy or employee of the officer, the penalties are enhanced. This type of of crime is a felony punishable by one to ten years in prison, a fine of triple the amount of the value of stolen property, and restitution to the victim.
Fines, restitution, and imprisonment are the legal consequences of criminal conviction. Personal consequences include a shattered professional reputation, strained personal relationships, and a criminal record that can jeopardize your ability to find a job, get an education, and secure a financial loan. A felony conviction, even for a non-violent felony, carries collateral consequences that impact your right to vote, your right to bear arms, and your ability to obtain or keep certain professional licenses.
When you have been accused of embezzling from a company or organization, finding experienced legal counsel is essential for a successful outcome. When employers and prosecutors are out to get you, we are on your side, fighting for your rights and interests. Call Phillips & Associates today for a confidential, no-risk evaluation of your case.
REQUEST A FREE CASE EVALUATION
If you've been charged with a crime, or believe you may be, don't delay. Time is critical.
Contact Phillips & Associates now so that we can begin reviewing your case.
Call our offices anytime at 405-418-8888 or complete the form below.