Accusations of theft and fraud are always taken seriously. However, when you are accused of stealing from your employer or a person who trusted you, there is an additional layer to the case. When you are accused of taking money and property you were trusted with, it is not considered petty theft. Instead, it is considered a white collar crime, and a conviction could ruin your career.
If you have been charged with embezzlement or you are under investigation, you should contact an experienced Lansing embezzlement attorney right away. You should have a lawyer by your side during any police questioning to ensure your rights are protected and you do not inadvertently incriminate yourself. Additionally, the sooner a lawyer is on your case, the sooner they can investigate every aspect of the accusations and begin to build a strong defense. There are ways to defend yourself against embezzlement charges and to fight to protect your reputation and career.
Michigan Embezzlement Law
Under MCL 750.174, it is illegal for any agent, employee, servant, bailee or trustee to embezzle from a person, government entity or business through their position of trust and power. A person is guilty of embezzlement when they use their position to fraudulently dispose of, convert or take without consent the money or property of another person, government entity or business, which was under their control or accessible through their job.
Examples Of Embezzlement
A common example of embezzlement is a businessperson who has access to their employer’s financial accounts. The employee, due to their rights and responsibilities at the business, has the ability to move money from the company accounts into their own. The employee might also alter business records to cover up the fraudulent movement of funds or to make it look like a valid transaction.
However, embezzlement does not just occur on large scales. Employees of a retail store or restaurant can embezzle by withholding cash from transactions and taking it for themselves.
Another example occurs when an employee embezzles property. A manufacturing worker may steal raw materials used to make a product and sell them. Additionally, a delivery driver may steal finished goods in order to use or sell, or an office worker may steal office supplies.
Embezzlement comes in a variety of forms, and it can occur through and in conjunction with forgery, money laundering, tax fraud, bank fraud, extortion, blackmail, credit card fraud, computer fraud and other theft and fraud offenses. If you have been accused of embezzlement, you should contact a Lansing embezzlement lawyer right away.
Penalties For Embezzlement
Like other theft crimes, the specific charge and potential penalties depend on the value of the property stolen.
- Less than $200: This is considered a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 93 days in jail and a maximum fine of $500 or three times the amount of the theft, whichever is greater. If the theft was from a charity or nonprofit, or it is a second or subsequent offense, then it is punishable by up to one year in jail and either three times the theft amount or $2,000, whichever is greater.
- Between $200 and $1,000: This is also considered a misdemeanor, which can be punished with a maximum of one year in jail and either three times the theft amount or up to $2,000, whichever is greater. When the theft was from a charity or nonprofit, or it is a second or subsequent offense, then it is charged as a felony and penalized with up to five years in prison and either a $10,000 fine or three times the amount of the theft, whatever amount is greater.
- Between $1,000 and $20,000: This is a felony, punishable by a maximum of five years in prison and three times the theft amount up to $10,000, whichever is greater. If this is a second or subsequent offense, or it was conducted against a nonprofit or charity, then you may face incarceration for up to 10 years and fines reaching $15,000, or three times the amount of the theft, whichever is a higher amount.
- Between $20,000 and $50,000: This is a felony, which can be penalized with up to 10 years in prison and whichever is greater: a fine of $15,000 or three times the value of the theft.
- Between $50,000 and $100,000: This is considered a felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison, and either a fine up to $25,000 or three times the value of the theft, depending on which is greater.
- More than $100,000: This is a felony, penalized by a maximum of 20 years in prison and a fine reaching $50,000 or three times the amount of the theft, whichever amount is greater.
Collateral Consequences Of Embezzlement
If you are convicted of embezzlement, whether as a misdemeanor or felony, you can expect it to have a significant impact on your life. After a period of incarceration, you will have to deal with a number of secondary consequences from having a permanent criminal record.
Your education and career will be affected. An embezzlement conviction may make it difficult to gain acceptance to a college or graduate program. You may be prohibited from obtaining certain professional licenses, or you may have a much harder time being approved for a professional license. There are certain jobs you may be entirely barred from, such as government jobs. Even if you can legally hold a certain position, employers may hesitate to hire someone who stole from a person or business they worked with.
The consequences also go beyond your education and career. A criminal conviction can impact your child custody agreement. The other parent may use this offense as leverage to obtain full custody or to force you to go through supervised visitation. It may also alter your immigration status. You could be denied visa renewal, permanent residency or citizenship. If you are undocumented, you could be deported.
Additionally, if you were convicted of a felony, you will also lose your right to own firearms. If you are facing embezzlement charges, you should not hesitate to reach out to a Lansing embezzlement attorney right away for help with your case.
Defending Against Embezzlement Charges
Your attorney may have one or more defenses to an embezzlement charge such as:
- Mistake of identity: There are times when a person, business or government entity realizes someone has been embezzling money or property. However, it takes an investigation to determine whom. A lack of clear evidence or the offender’s intentional trail of breadcrumbs could lead law enforcement to arrest you by mistake. If you have been wrongly accused of embezzlement, and someone else is the true offender, your lawyers will strive to point out the holes in the prosecutor’s case and present your alibi.
- Lack of intent: Embezzlement requires the intent to take another person or business’s property and use it to benefit yourself. If there is no evidence of criminal intent, then prosecutors may not be able to prove you committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
- Duress: If there is evidence you participated in the illegal activity under duress, then your attorney may wish to present this to the court. This is particularly important if you were forced to convert funds or property because of another person who threatened you would lose your job unless you did so.
- Lack of evidence: In any criminal case, it is the prosecutor’s job to prove you committed the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. This requires comprehensive and strong evidence. Your attorney will strive to point out the prosecutor’s lack of or weak evidence.
DeBruin Law, PLLC Can Help You Build Your Defense
If you have suddenly been arrested for embezzlement or you are a party of interest in an investigation, the first thing you need to do is invoke your right to remain silent. The next thing to do is call a Lansing embezzlement attorney. You may feel the right thing to do is be honest and defend yourself to your employer or the police. However, whatever you say in front of an officer can be used against you, and it is entirely possible that you will make yourself look bad while trying to prove you are innocent. Instead, let a lawyer help you through an investigation.
An experienced attorney at DeBruin Law, PLLC will ensure your rights are always protected and that you cooperate with an investigation while never accidentally incriminating yourself. If prosecutors move forward with charges, an experienced Lansing theft lawyer attorney will thoroughly analyze your case and build a strong defense on your behalf.