What Is Embezzlement?
Embezzlement is considered a white-collar crime, and a person commits this offense when they steal money, goods, or services that they were entrusted to manage or hold. Under Texas Penal Code §§ 31.02 and 31.03, embezzlement is a consolidated theft offense that occurs when a person unlawfully appropriates property with the intent to deprive the property owner.
Appropriation of property is unlawful if:
- The owner did not consent to the appropriation.
- The property is stolen and a person appropriates the property with the knowledge the property is stolen.
Embezzlement often occurs when people:
- Steal money from their employer or a charitable organization (where they manage funds)
- Move funds from corporate accounts to their personal accounts
- Falsify the information in the books or records to conceal their theft of business or company funds
An example of embezzlement is: Joey works at a bank. As a teller, he has been trusted to handle client money, and he uses his legal access to client accounts to take small amounts of money from multiple clients.
Another example is a payroll manager who embezzles money from her employer. Sarah, the manager, creates fake employee accounts and sends their payroll checks to bank accounts in her name.
Is Embezzlement a Felony or Misdemeanor Offense?
In Texas, the penalties for embezzlement vary based on the amount and value of goods or cash stolen. It is also important to note that public servants face harsher penalties if they are convicted; specifically, their punishment will be increased to the next highest category offense. The penalty breakdown is as follows.
- Class C misdemeanor, if the stolen cash or goods is valued at less than $100.
- Class B misdemeanor, if the stolen cash or goods is valued at no less than $100 and no more than $750, or less than $100 and the defendant has previously been convicted of theft.
- Class A misdemeanor, if the stolen cash or goods is valued at no less than $750 but no more than $2,500.
- State jail felony, if the stolen cash or goods is valued at
- Third-degree felony, if the stolen cash or goods is valued at
- Second-degree felony, if the stolen cash or goods is valued at no less than $150,000 and no more than $300,000.
- First-degree felony, if the stolen cash or goods is valued at $300,000 or more.
Possible Defenses Against Embezzlement Charges
The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the alleged offender appropriated money or goods with the intent to steal from the owner and without the owner’s consent. Defenses against these allegations include but are not limited to:
- The prosecution has insufficient evidence.
- The accused didn’t intend to steal the funds or goods.
- The accused had permission to use or borrow the funds or goods for personal use.
- The accused did not have access to the funds or goods that were stolen.
- The accused accidentally made an error in the books that suggests funds or goods were embezzled.
Contact Attorney Peter Barrett
If you have been charged with embezzlement, you need to retain a reliable criminal defense attorney. A conviction not only results in hefty fines and imprisonment but can also impact your rights and freedoms and ability to obtain a loan or rent an apartment. Attorney Peter Barrett offers clients high-quality representation and can work to:
- Mitigate the charges by negotiating a plea deal (of finding another out-of-court solution)
- Develop a solid legal defense strategy
- Uncover relevant information and evidence
- Protect your best interests