Gary Williams, the former financial officer of Marian Gardens Tree Farm, was recently sentenced recently in Florida state court to 12 years in prison for crimes relating to embezzlement - tacking an additional four years onto the eight-year sentence he had already received in federal court.
While it is unusual for a criminal defendant to be tried in state court after being prosecuted in federal court for the same offense, in this case Florida prosecutors must have believed the crime called for additional punishment.
Williams was accused of embezzling $15 million from his employer over the course of several years, spending the money on extravagant vacations and other luxuries while explaining his frequent absences from work by falsely claiming to be suffering from pancreatic cancer.
What Is Embezzlement?
Embezzlement is the crime that occurs when someone who has been entrusted with money or property fraudulently takes it as his or her own. The element of entrustment is what distinguishes embezzlement from ordinary theft or larceny.
Because embezzlement can only occur when the perpetrator has some initial right of access to the property, it occurs most often in an employment context. For instance, a cashier may embezzle by taking money from a cash register, or an investment manager may embezzle by charging personal expenses to a client's account.
Criminal Penalties for Embezzlement
Depending on the circumstances of the crime and the value of the property involved, a person convicted of embezzlement in Florida may a face prison sentence of up to 30 years, as well as a fine of up to $5,000. Florida's criminal laws are particularly tough on repeat offenders, so a person who has been convicted previously of embezzlement or a similar offense will often be sentenced more severely than a first-time offender, even if the later offense is relatively minor.
An Attorney Can Help
A lawyer experienced in white-collar defense, can analyze the facts to determine weaknesses in the state's case and develop viable defenses that may be present. Often crimes of embezzlement are difficult to investigate, which can result in mistakes including, charging the wrong person. The defense of an embezzlement case may involve a trial or if the prosecution's case is strong, an experienced white-collar defense attorney can raise issues that can lead to a favorable plea agreement.
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