White Collar Crime Defense: Embezzlement

Embezzlement sounds like a complex financial crime, and while it can take the form of elaborate schemes to misdirect funds, it can also be as simple as the theft of office supplies. In most cases, "embezzlers" are people who are generally law-abiding citizens, but who find themselves in legal jeopardy after committing an act of embezzlement.

A person may "borrow" money without authorization from a company or organization, but the misappropriation of those funds is embezzlement, regardless of intent to repay.

Others take company money or property thinking that it will never be missed. They may feel that the company owes them something, and they are justified in taking what they believe to be rightfully theirs. Often, they feel as if embezzlement is a victimless crime, not realizing that misappropriating money or property is an act of theft.

Whether it is an act of greed or an act of desperation, embezzlement is punished as a criminal act carrying the possibility of jail or prison upon conviction.

Beyond the legal penalties associated with an embezzlement conviction are the personal and professional consequences. A conviction for a financial crime can make it difficult to obtain gainful employment after release from prison, and a felony conviction brings collateral consequences for employment, firearm rights, voting rights, and more.

If you are suspected of embezzlement or under investigation for financial crime, you should immediately contact an experienced white collar defense lawyer who can advise you of the appropriate steps to take. At the Law Firm of Oklahoma, we have a proven record of successful white collar crime defense, bringing tough embezzlement cases to a positive resolution.

Oklahoma Embezzlement Law

Whether it involves complex financial schemes targeting multimillion dollar corporations or skimming from the till at a mom-and-pop business, embezzlement is defined by Oklahoma law as follows:

"Embezzlement 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 . . . ."

If you have access to the funds or property of an employer or organization, and if you use that money or property for any other purpose than its intended or authorized purpose, you may be guilty of embezzlement. This can mean either outright theft of funds or even something as simple as using the company car to run personal errands.

Embezzlement includes a great number of unauthorized actions:

  • Using a company credit card for personal purchases
  • Falsifying deposits
  • Falsifying invoices and overbilling customers
  • Writing company checks to oneself
  • Falsifying timesheets
  • and more.

It is important to note that Oklahoma law states that "[e]mbezzlement does not require a distinct act of taking, but only a fraudulent appropriation, conversion or use of property." Using company equipment or property for one's personal activities is embezzlement, just as diverting company funds into one's personal accounts is embezzlement.

To prove embezzlement, a prosecutor must demonstrate each of the following: There exists a financial relationship between the defendant and the victim which allows the defendant access to the money or property involved. The defendant illegally and intentionally took advantage of that relationship by assuming ownership of the money or property or by misappropriating it for personal use.

While embezzlement is typically prosecuted as a state offense, it becomes a federal crime when the victim is a federally-insured bank, an agency of the United States government, or an organization utilizing federal funds.

Embezzlement is generally prosecuted as a state crime, but may fall under federal jurisdiction in certain circumstances. For example, embezzlement is a federal offense if the victim is the United States government or its agencies or a federally-insured bank.

Embezzlement Penalties

The penalties for embezzlement in Oklahoma are dependent upon the value of the property in question.

  • Less than $500 - Misdemeanor - Punishable by a maximum of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine
  • $500 to less than $1,000 - Felony - Punishable by a maximum of one year in jail, a fine of $1,000, and restitution.
  • $1,000 to less than $25,000 - Felony - Punishable by a maximum of 5 years in prison, a fine of $5,000, and restitution.
  • $25,000 or more - Felony - Punishable by a maximum or 10 years in prison, a $10,000 fine, and restitution.

Embezzlement by a state or county official or a deputy of the official is subject to enhanced penalties, including a maximum of 10 years in prison, restitution, and a fine equal to triple the value of the embezzled funds or property.

Embezzlement Defense Lawyer

Consequences of a white collar crime conviction reach far beyond the legal repercussions of prison and fines. Conviction can have long-term financial consequences and the destruction of one's personal and professional reputation.

If you are suspected of embezzlement, are under investigation for financial crimes, or have been arrested on a criminal complaint, act now to secure legal representation. Your attorney can ensure that your rights are upheld and can protect you from making mistakes that can jeopardize your case.

Call the Law Firm of Oklahoma at (405) 608-4990 to schedule a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Do not let this situation get any further out of control. Get effective legal counsel today.

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