Embezzlement in Greensburg is a form of theft, but it’s a very distinct crime due to the relationship to the victim and the methods used. As a violation of state law, embezzlement carries stiff penalties, but the punishment for embezzling money under federal law is even harsher. Still, various legal issues are necessary to secure a conviction, which means there are strategies to fight the charges. When you retain a Greensburg embezzlement lawyer to defend your interests, your chances of a favorable outcome increase.
An intense investigation often accompanies embezzlement charges, which is why it’s critical to contact Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, and our theft lawyers in Greensburg as soon as you think you’re a target. Our legal services are a valuable asset from the pre-arrest stages through questioning, and especially in the event of a trial.
Table of Contents
What is Embezzlement Under Pennsylvania Law?
Pennsylvania’s embezzlement statute goes by the term “failure to make required disposition” of funds or property you received from another person. Essentially, it’s a misappropriation of assets by an individual to whom they’ve been entrusted. The aspect of the offense that’s unique from other theft crimes is that you initially held the property legally, either through an agreement or as part of a fiduciary duty. At some point after receiving the funds, you failed to dispose of them as intended and instead dealt with the property as if it was your own.
Another way you could be charged with embezzlement under state law is if you were supposed to reserve your own property to make specified payments or other disposition, but failed to do so. Co-mingling funds is covered by the embezzlement statute, in a situation where it’s impossible to separate your own property from that of the victim.
Embezzlement charges commonly arise in the context of employment or in corporate settings. Accountants, corporate officers, and related fiduciaries have access or lawful possession of assets as part of their jobs. The offense occurs when they convert corporate property for their own private use.
What is the Statute of Limitations on Embezzlement in Pennsylvania?
Under both US and Pennsylvania law, the prosecution must file embezzlement charges within five years of the initial act in furtherance of embezzlement. If you aren’t arrested before this time, you have a valid defense to the embezzlement charges.
How Does a Prosecutor Prove Embezzlement?
There are certain essential elements of embezzlement that a prosecuting attorney must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt. The evidence must show that you intentionally deprived another person of property through fraudulent conversion or failure to pay money. In addition, the prosecution needs to deprive the owner permanently. There must be proof that you knowingly reduced or eliminated the value of the property, such that there’s a limited possibility that the rightful owner could ever recover it.
Is Embezzlement a Federal Crime?
You could be charged with the federal crime of embezzlement if your fraudulent conversion involves U.S. government departments or agencies. In addition, you may be arrested under federal laws if:
- The acts of embezzlement crossed state lines, either physically or through electronic transactions;
- Federal officials conducted the investigation in an embezzlement scheme;
- The fraudulent conversation involved federal taxpayer money;
- A federal informant was involved in the investigation; or,
- Your conduct was a direct violation of federal law.
What is the Penalty for Embezzlement?
In both the state and federal statutes, the penalties for an embezzlement conviction is based on the value of the misappropriated property.
Pennsylvania Criminal Sanctions: You could be charged with misdemeanor embezzlement for amounts at three different levels:
- Third-degree misdemeanor for values under $50, with a punishment of one-year incarceration and a $2,500 fine;
- Second-degree misdemeanor for property between $50 and $200, for which your fine could reach $5,000 and embezzlement jail time could be up to two years; and,
- First-degree misdemeanor for assets valued at $200-$2,000, which could lead to five years’ in custody and a fine up to $10,000.
Misappropriated property higher than $2,000 becomes felony embezzlement. You could be sentenced to a maximum of seven years’ incarceration, plus a maximum fine of $15,000. Note that these sentencing details are for embezzlement first-time offenders. The penalties increase for individuals with a prior criminal history.
Embezzlement Sentencing Under Federal Law: Property valued at more or less than $1,000 is what separates felony from misdemeanor embezzlement under the federal statute. In addition, the duration of the embezzlement scheme, the extent of trust, and your criminal history may be considered as part of the federal sentencing guidelines. Embezzling federal money or property worth less than $1,000 is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison, a fine of up to $100,000, or both. Embezzling more than $1,000 is a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, a fine of $250,000, or both.
You can see that US criminal procedure is very different from Pennsylvania law. For this reason, it’s essential to retain an embezzlement lawyer who is properly licensed, knowledgeable, and can handle cases in both federal and state courts.
Other Defenses for Embezzlement Charges
Besides the statute of limitations, there are additional defenses in embezzlement cases, such as:
- Mistakes or Accounting Errors;
- Unintentional acts;
- Lack of sufficient evidence; and,
- Others depending on your circumstances.
You should keep in mind that the existence of a strong defense doesn’t automatically mean charges for embezzling money will be dropped or that you will be acquitted. Even if you were falsely accused of embezzlement, it’s necessary to get the necessary information before the judge and jury. An embezzlement attorney can assist with gathering evidence and ensuring it is admissible in court. Your lawyer will also develop a solid defense strategy, which includes presenting arguments in court. Without a legal background, you’re at a disadvantage when fighting an experienced prosecuting attorney in an embezzlement case.
Call to Schedule a Free Consult with a Greensburg Embezzlement Lawyer
For more information on how we can help you in fighting embezzlement charges, please call Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC at (724) 834-1275. You can also visit us online to learn more about our legal services in Greensburg and throughout Westmoreland County. We can set up a no-cost appointment for you to discuss your situation with a knowledgeable embezzlement attorney.