Embezzlement

If you have been accused of embezzlement, call Madrid Law, PLLC at 713-877-9400 for a free initial consultation.

Although embezzlement is generally considered a “white collar crime”, most people have an opportunity to embezzle at some point or another, regardless of the nature of their profession. In Houston, the penalties for embezzlement are usually based on Texas state law. Although penalties vary widely according the facts of each particular case, embezzling large sums of money carries potentially draconian penalties. Distressingly, false allegations of embezzlement are not uncommon. It is also not uncommon for a guilty defendant to face a wildly disproportionate sentence due to exaggeration of the amount embezzled.

What is Embezzlement?

In order to win a conviction for embezzlement in Houston, the prosecutor must prove:

  • The defendant was in a fiduciary relationship with the victim– that is, he had access to the victim’s money or property in a position of trust. A corporate financial officer is a prime example of a fiduciary; so is a company employee.
  • The defendant used deception to divert money or property from the victim for personal gain.
  • The defendant had criminal intent (the diversion was not accidental, for example)

Red Flags

Certain activities that you might undertake can act as “red flags” to stimulate an embezzlement investigation against you, even if the acts themselves were appropriate and even if your intentions were innocent. Examples of such “red flags” include:

  • Failing to report large cash transactions
  • Diverting funds from a company account to your own account, or to an account of unknown origin
  • Structuring financial transactions to conceal their actual value
  • Co-mingling personal and company funds

Penalties

In Texas, the crime of embezzlement carries with it a particularly broad range of penalties, depending on the amount embezzled and the presence or absence of any aggravating factors. At one extreme, embezzling less than $50 is a Class C misdemeanor that can result in a fine of no more than $500, while at the other extreme, embezzling $200,000 or more is a first-degree felony that can result in a $10,000 fine and 99 years in prison.

Aggravating Factors

If an aggravating factor is present, the penalty for embezzlement will be increased by one level. For example, embezzlement of less than $50 with one aggravating factor is punished as if the defendant had embezzled between $50 and $499 with no aggravating factors (a fine of up to $2,000 and/or up to 180 days in jail). In Texas, aggravating factors include:

  • Embezzling form a senior citizen
  • Embezzling form a non-profit organization
  • Embezzling as a public servant
  • Embezzling as a government contractor

Defenses

Many potential defenses to embezzlement exist, some of which are fact-based and some of which are law-based. Some of the most effective and commonly used include:

  • You were the victim of identity theft and the guilty party is someone else
  • Flawed company accounting practices are to blame, and no embezzlement actually occurred

Getting Help

White collar crimes lawyer

Prosecutions for Internet fraud are fraught with peril. If your case is complex, the prosecution is likely to employ expert witnesses that you will have to either discredit or refute. Attempting to represent yourself or hiring the wrong attorney could turn a false accusation into a false conviction. Houston criminal lawyer Mario Madrid is a board certified specialist in Texas criminal law with the courage and experience to aggressively confront the criminal justice system on behalf of the falsely accused. If you have been accused of a computer crime, call Madrid Law, PLLC at 713-877-9400 for a free initial consultation.