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How much do you really know about embezzlement? - II

Last month, our blog began discussing how even though both state and federal authorities have gone to great lengths to crack down on mortgage fraud, tax fraud and general corporate misconduct over the last decade, they have by no means abandoned their efforts to tackle other white-collar crimes, including embezzlement.

More significantly, we started examining how embezzlement is defined under Florida law, what a prosecutor must prove in an embezzlement case and whether it's always classified as a felony.

In today's post, we'll conclude this examination by providing a closer look at some of the penalties associated with an embezzlement conviction, as well as some of the possible defenses to this charge.

How do prosecutors determine whether embezzlement is charged as a misdemeanor or a felony?

As we touched on last time, the determination as to whether embezzlement is charged as grand theft -- a felony -- or petit theft -- a misdemeanor -- depends entirely upon the amount of money or the value of the property allegedly misappropriated by the defendant.

For instance, if the defendant is alleged to have embezzled over $100,000, they will face charges for grand theft in the first degree, while if they are alleged to have embezzled between $20,000 and $100,000, they will face charges for grand theft in the second degree.

Moving down the ladder, alleged embezzlement of between $300 and $20,000 will be charged as grand theft in the third degree, while anything under $300 is charged as petit theft.

What are the possible sentences and penalties associated with these charges?

In general, punishment for the aforementioned charges breaks down as follows:

  • Grand theft in the first degree: A first-degree felony charge punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and a maximum of 30 years in prison.
  • Grand theft in the second degree: A second-degree felony charge punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and a maximum of 15 years in prison.
  • Grand theft in the third degree: A third-degree felony charge punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and a maximum of 5 years in prison.
  • Petit theft (first offense): A second-degree misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500 and a maximum of 60 days in jail.

What are the available defenses to embezzlement charges?

As we discussed last time, a prosecutor must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused later stole, spent or used entrusted property without the consent of its owner in an embezzlement case.

While the circumstances of each case will vary, a defendant could attempt to demonstrate that the property owner's consent extended beyond mere entrustment, or that they had a good faith belief that they were the actual owners of the property.

What all of this serves to underscore is that if you are under investigation or have been formally charged with embezzlement or another white-collar crime, it's imperative to contact a skilled legal professional as soon as possible. At the Law Offices of Horwitz & Citro, P.A., our dedication to protecting your rights, your professional reputation and your freedom in these cases is absolute and unwavering.