According to statistics, an average U.S. company loses around 7% of its revenue annually to employee theft. Moreover, a third of all bankruptcies in the country are caused by embezzlement. Obviously, in order to stay afloat, businesses are striving to eliminate theft in the workplace.
Embezzlement is willful misappropriation of company assets by an employee who has been entrusted to manage or use the property to the benefit of its rightful owner.
So why do people commit these crimes? The thing is that most commonly employees don’t commit a one-time huge theft but instead steal in small amounts over a large period of time. Reportedly, an average embezzler steals for over 2 years before detected. Taking $20 from the register or one printer cartridge from the office supplies box might seem like an innocent thing to do, and statistically, over three quarters of employees have stolen at least once from their employer. But such little things add up to incredible sums. U.S. companies lose over $50 bn to employee theft each year.
In order to bring charges and obtain conviction, prosecutors need to prove the presence of four factors:
It may seem that some of the factors are hard to prove, and it’s true, which makes it easier for financial fraud lawyers to build proactive defense strategies based on disproving the factors.
Such cases can be prosecuted both on federal and state levels. Most embezzlement cases are prosecuted in state courts unless the crime occurred in a federal organization or company which is funded by the federal government.
Embezzlement can result in both civil litigation and criminal prosecution. In the first case, the victim files a lawsuit against the alleged offender to obtain restitution of the embezzled assets. In order to obtain the restitution, the defendant’s wages can be garnished and their property seized. If the case is prosecuted in criminal court, then, depending on the type of property embezzled, its value, presence of aggravating factors, state where the case is prosecuted and some other circumstances, possible penalties may be imprisonment of up to 30 years, steep fines and victim restitution.
If compared to most U.S. states, New York criminal statutes have probably the harshest penalties for theft by embezzlement. They depend mostly on the value of property stolen:
All the offenses except for embezzlement and grand larceny in the 1st degree have possible probation or a conditional discharge. Also, mind that these sentences are valid for non-predicate felons. Some aggravating factors and the fact that the person is a second and third time offender might result in a harsher punishment.
Most embezzlement cases are not quite straightforward. In some cases in a fiduciary relationship it is hard to draw a clear line between what can and cannot be done by the employee. A number of things are done without written authorization, which may lead to the employee being charged with funds misappropriation and embezzlement. Also, some financial losses in an organization may be traced back to honest mistakes by the bookkeepers, attorneys or accounts, and to err is human, but it doesn’t mean that such slip should be recorded on the criminal history of the person and affect their employment opportunities and livelihood.
Therefore, in order to ensure that the defendant’s rights are safeguarded, it is of vital importance to retain an experienced financial crimes attorney who will protect the person throughout all of the prosecution and litigation stages and ensure the best possible resolution of the case.
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