No Charge Too Small: The Many Kinds of Embezzlement

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Mar 02

Lewis & Laws

No Charge Too Small: The Many Kinds of Embezzlement

by Lewis & Laws

No Charge Too Small: The Many Kinds of Embezzlement

When most people think of “embezzlement,” they imagine huge sums of money being skimmed from giant corporations, often by those who are most trusted to keep the books balanced. However, embezzlement is actually a fairly broad term—and it can mean theft of even just a very small amount of money or property.

What Embezzlement Actually Means

The definition of embezzlement is fairly specific, but it can encompass a lot of different sorts of crimes. The Wex legal definition of embezzlement is as follows:

Fraudulent taking of personal property by someone to whom it was entrusted. Most often associated with the misappropriation of money. Embezzlement can occur regardless of whether the defendant keeps the personal property or transfers it to a third party.

In plain English, that essentially means that someone whose job it is to handle and tend to money or property takes the money or property for personal uses. A key distinction is that they often are in possession of the funds or property, but not ownership.

But how might a person take something that wasn’t theirs to begin with? This is where embezzlement charges tend to vary.

Different Kinds of Embezzlement

Embezzlement is often thought of as a white-collar crime, which isn’t entirely incorrect; often, it’s seen in corporate settings where accountants help themselves to the money of their employers or clients using payroll funds. However, that’s certainly not the only kind.

Charging personal expenses to corporate accounts is fairly common; in 2014, a former financial officer for the management company that represented the band Pearl Jam was sentenced to 14 months in prison; the man “who had originally been charged with 33 counts of theft, pleaded guilty in December to six counts of first-degree theft for using company accounts to pay personal debts and fund lavish family vacations, spa treatments, life insurance and pricey California wines, according to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

More recently, the treasurer of a Pasco non-profit is currently under investigation for embezzlement after allegedly running up personal charges, like purchasing groceries or paying utility bills, on a company credit card.

Embezzlement may also take the form of forged or otherwise altered accounting paperwork; kiting corporate checks, using corporate payroll to pay yourself more than is agreed upon, receiving kickbacks from clients or vendors, or fraudulently logging overtime or bonus pay.

However, many blue-collar jobs are ripe for embezzlement, too; restaurant employees may undercharge customers and keep the difference, while those working in shipping and receiving may steal property.

Sentencing for Embezzlement in Washington State

Much like other kinds of theft, the sentencing potential in an embezzlement charge depends on the amount of money (or the monetary value of the property) that’s been stolen, as well as the intent (RCW 9a.20.021) of the thief. And while a good lawyer and a willingness to repay stolen funds can absolutely help get a sentence reduced, the basic schedule of punishment is as follows:

●$750 or less: Up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.

●More than $750, but not more than $5,000: Up to five years in jail, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.

●More than $5,000. Up to ten years in prison, a fine of up to $20,000, or both.

There are also extenuating circumstances that can automatically elevate an embezzlement crime—for example, stealing an on-duty search and rescue dog immediately increases the potential sentence.

Embezzlement can range from extremely serious to relatively minor—but regardless of the size or scope of an embezzlement charge, we believe that all citizens deserve a fair trial.

If You’ve Been Charged with Theft in Seattle, Contact the Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyers at Baker, Lewis, Schwisow & Laws

The expert defense team at Baker, Lewis, Schwisow & Laws, PLLC vigorously defend the rights of individuals facing a multitude of charges in Seattle, Bellevue, and Kirkland. Contact us today at 206.209.0608 or fill out our online contact form to get more information or to get a free case review!

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