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How much do you really know about embezzlement?

Over the last decade, the term white-collar crime has perhaps become synonymous with major criminal activity like mortgage fraud, tax fraud and general misconduct by corporate executives. Indeed, the Justice Department announced just last month that it would be pursuing a new white-collar crime strategy in the coming years, specifically targeting individual executives and employees for prosecution.

As interesting as this trend has been, it's important to understand that both federal and state authorities have in no way lost their zeal for prosecuting other white-collar crimes, including securities fraud, money laundering and, of course, embezzlement.

How does Florida law define embezzlement?

The Florida statutes are written in such a way that many property crimes -- including embezzlement -- are consolidated under the all-inclusive term "theft." A person is considered guilty of theft if they knowingly obtain or use the property of another with the intent to deprive them of it temporarily or permanently.

Is this all the prosecution has to prove in a case involving accusations of embezzlement?

No. Embezzlement cases differ in that the prosecutor does not need to show any initial taking of property, as the property in question is presumed to have been entrusted to the care of the accused. Rather, what the prosecutor must show is that the accused later stole, spent or used this entrusted property without the consent of its owner.

Is embezzlement always charged as a felony?

Not necessarily. The determination as to whether embezzlement is charged as grand theft -- a felony -- or petit theft -- a misdemeanor -- depends upon the amount of money or the value of the property allegedly misappropriated.

We will continue with our examination of Florida's embezzlement laws in our next post. In the meantime, if you are under investigation or have been formally chargedwith any sort of white-collar crime, do not hesitate to contact The Law Offices of Mark L. Horwitz, P.A. as soon as possible to ensure the protection of your rights, your reputation and your future.