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Building a Defense Against Embezzlement Charges

In some ways, being accused of a white-collar crime can be scarier than accusations of other crimes. Alleged white-collar criminals often have no criminal history, and they are unaccustomed to dealing with the criminal justice system. Their imaginations can start running wild about prison life, with images of dehumanizing abuse.

Embezzlement is among the more serious white-collar crimes in Ohio. Penalties escalate depending on the alleged amount stolen:

  • $500 or less
    First-degree misdemeanor with up to 6 months in jail
  • $500 – $5,000
    Fifth-degree felony with 6 – 12 months in prison
  • $5,000 – $100,000
    Fourth-degree felony with 6 – 18 months in prison
  • $100,000 – $500,000
    Third-degree felony with 1 – 5 years in prison
  • $500,000 – $1 million
    Second-degree felony with 2 – 8 years in prison
  • Over $1 million
    First-degree felony with 3 – 10 years in prison

If you’ve been charged with the white-collar crime of embezzlement, you must seek legal counsel right away. Regardless of the evidence the authorities claim to have, you still have a right to a defense. You should have your day in court and fight these charges, preserving your freedom, safety, and reputation.

Defining Embezzlement

Embezzlement is a form of theft, but it is indirect. It’s not the same as hacking into someone’s account and stealing their money. It is, essentially, a misappropriation of funds. Someone hires a professional to manage their finances. This professional then redirects money into their account, keeping this information from the client.

That’s a simple explanation, but embezzlement can be much more complicated. The offender could shuffle money around into other accounts, accounts that aren’t directly in their name. They could use an accomplice, someone with no connection to the client. Placing money into this accomplice’s accounts can make it harder to track. A clever embezzler is likely a financial professional, and they can devise many ways to steal and hide money.

Defenses Against Embezzlement

Here are some credible defenses against embezzlement that you can discuss with your attorney.

The Evidence is Incorrect

It bears repeating: The world of finance is complicated. Something that first appears to be a simple transaction can end up taking months. At that time, it may be necessary to move money around to separate locations.

It’s entirely possible that simply doing the job can appear to be embezzlement from the outside. In these situations, it’s necessary to break down the evidence, revealing its inconsistencies and false assumptions. You and your attorney will be put in the position of teacher. You’ll be forced to explain the innocence of the transactions to the prosecution, court, and jury.

You Never Intended to Embezzle

In any good criminal case, prosecutors must show intent. It’s not enough to convict someone on a technicality. They must also demonstrate that the defendant knew what they were doing, and they were purposely stealing from their client.

Catching someone on a legal technicality does not tell the full story. Say, for instance, you did move money into your account. From the outside, this looks like a willful attempt to steal. The action itself might even be illegal. However, you were moving this money only to keep it somewhere safe until you were able to put it where it belongs. Perhaps you are guilty of a minor crime in this instance, and you should suffer a slap on the wrist. You should not, however, be fully charged for embezzlement, and you can explain your honest intentions in court.

Within the complex world of finance, it’s easy to make mistakes. Honest errors also show a lack of intent in your trial. Perhaps you accidentally took a higher salary than you should have, genuinely believing you were transferring the correct amount. You may have even committed a simple clerical error that shuffled money to the wrong location, and you were charged before you had the chance to catch or correct the mistake.

Incapacitation also shows a lack of intent. It’s no secret that during times of great stress, our work suffers. Perhaps you were going through a divorce or grieving the loss of a loved one. During that time, you moved money to the wrong place, never noticing the error. If you can show the court the stress you were under when the alleged crime was committed, you could be exonerated of your charges.

You Were Forced to Do It

Even when an act is illegal and intentional, if you committed it under duress, you could be found innocent in court.

You may have been hired by someone who, unbeknownst to you, was working for a criminal enterprise. Eventually, you discovered their illegal acts, and they turned on you. Under threat of force against you or your family, you helped them embezzle money. Perhaps the threat was more subtle, akin to blackmail. These scenarios are not as farfetched as they may seem, and if they happen to you, you can explain your situation in court.

Another possibility is that you worked for an unscrupulous boss or company. They may have asked you to do something illegal. Courts can be sensitive to the inherent power dynamics of a boss and employee. Even though you were aware of the illegal activity, you could argue that you had been forced to do it by your employer.

You Were Set Up by the Police

This is a complicated defense, and for it to work, the situation must be very specific. First of all, the police can lie in a sting operation. They have the freedom to say that they are not cops, even when asked directly. Essentially, if they suspect you of illegal behavior, they can create a false scenario to catch you in the act.

To accuse the police of setting you up, you must claim entrapment. Entrapment is a situation where the police lure someone into committing a crime. They plan the caper, and they find someone to pull into their scheme. This victim can turn down the offer several times, only to be met with a sweeter and sweeter deal by the undercover officers. After finally relenting, the victim suddenly finds themselves arrested for a crime. This is how entrapment works.

Entrapment is subtle, and it is hard to prove. If, however, you were coaxed into committing a crime, entrapment is a valid defense you can use in court.

If you’ve been accused of embezzlement, don’t face these charges on your own. Reach out to our office for help. We can give you a free, no-risk consultation, and we may be able to take on your case. Our number is (216) 928-7700, and you can contact us online.