A former juvenile justice specialist with the Office of Juvenile Affairs in Frederick has been charged with four counts of embezzlement in Oklahoma. Patricia J. Hughes, 61, was charged yesterday in Tillman County after she was accused of depositing money orders intended for victim restitution into her personal accounts. Investigators were alerted to the alleged embezzlement after a victim notified the agency that he was not receiving his restitution checks as scheduled. Court records show that Hughes admitted to an investigator with the Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs that she deposited four restitution money orders in the amount of $1,000 each into her personal bank account. She allegedly told the investigator that she had been having financial difficulty and needed the money to help support her own children. Patricia Hughes was employed as a juvenile justice specialist with the Frederick agency of the Office of Juvenile Affairs from 2005 until 2011, when she left the agency as part of a voluntary buyout. Though embezzlement, or misappropriation of funds with which one is entrusted or to which one has access, is sometimes committed out of greed, it is often an action taken by people who find themselves in a desperate financial situation and are looking for a way out. In Ms. Hughes' case, she claimed to be having financial difficulty and struggling to support her children. In other cases, overwhelming debt, fear of foreclosure, divorce, or addiction may create financial burdens that leave otherwise law abiding citizens scrambling for a solution. Though these situations do not justify theft, many people use embezzlement to quickly solve a stressful financial problem. Often, perpetrators of embezzlement have every intention of paying back the funds they appropriated to their own use; unfortunately for them, they are often caught before they are able to do so. If you have been accused of embezzlement or fraud, or if you suspect that you are being investigated for potential involvement in an embezzlement scheme, it is important to consult an experienced Oklahoma white collar crime lawyer as quickly as possible. Whether you have, in fact, embezzled money, or whether you were acting under a supervisor's orders and were unaware that the activity was illegal, a skilled attorney can closely evaluate your case to determine the optimal defense strategy. By taking a proactive approach, you may be able to mitigate some of the penalties associated with an embezzlement conviction; if you are innocent of the charges, an embezzlement lawyer in Oklahoma can aggressively pursue a dismissal of the charges or an acquittal at trial.
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