A form of white-collar crime, embezzlement happens when a person or entity misappropriates the assets entrusted to them. Unlike fraud or larceny, in this case, the embezzler has permission to handle the property or money in a certain way, but not to take it for themselves. Embezzlement happens if a person or business:
- Has lawful possession of the property of another.
- Converts or takes that property for their personal use.
- Has no intention of giving the property back.
Conversion, in this case, includes using, selling, giving away, withholding them permanently, or inflicting serious damage on the property or funds. Also, under Florida Law, embezzlement can be prosecuted under the state’s theft laws.
Embezzlement statutes fall under theft statutes under Florida law. Florida statutes 812.012 and 812.014 outline the basis to define embezzlement, its possible defenses, and its penalties. Because of this, embezzlement penalties in Florida follow the same degree scale used to categorize theft charges. Embezzlement penalties can go from an imprisonment sentence of up to sixty days paired with a $500 fine, to imprisonment of up to five years and a fine of up to $5,000.
Elements of Embezzlement
In an embezzlement case, the prosecutor doesn’t need to prove the defendant initially took the property without the victim’s consent. However, the prosecutor must prove the defendant later intentionally spent, used, or gave away the entrusted property without the victim’s consent. In most cases, these elements must be present to be considered an embezzlement crime:
- Both parties must have a fiduciary relationship;
- The defendant must have acquired the property through such relationship;
- The defendant must have taken ownership or transferred the property to someone else;
- The defendant’s actions must have been intentional.
Embezzlement Special Conditions
Under Florida law, embezzlement can be charged as petit theft or grand theft, which also helps determine if the offense will be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or a felony.
Examples of Embezzlement
Embezzlement can occur in ordinary circumstances. Often without noticing, people find themselves victims of embezzlement with little to no clue on how to react or move forward.
On the Job
Any employee who takes money or property from an employer and uses it for personal benefits is essentially committing embezzlement. For example:
- Charging more than the cost of a product or service and pocketing the difference.
- Borrowing money from the cash register without the intent to return it.
- Taking inventory or office supplies for personal use.
- Changing the account books to hide losses.
- Tampering with time records.
On Property Held in Trust
Another common form of embezzlement occurs when someone mishandles property that someone else entrusted them with. For example:
- Using a relative’s Social Security check.
- Selling a property and pocketing the proceeds without accounting for it to the rightful heirs.
- Stealing money through a Ponzi scheme.
- Borrowing money from a civic organization’s bank account.
- Adjusting accounting books to hide misappropriation of funds.
Facing Embezzlement Charges? Speak with an Attorney
If you or someone you know is facing embezzlement charges or has been a victim of embezzlement, contact a Pompano Beach criminal defense attorney today. Embezzlement laws can be confusing as they follow Florida’s theft laws. With the right legal representation, we can fight these charges and defend your rights.