When most people think of embezzlement, they think of high-profile criminal cases in which a CEO or high-ranking employee steals hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars. What many people don’t realize is that you can be charged with embezzlement over much, much smaller amounts of money. If you find yourself facing an embezzlement charge in Arizona, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to help you reduce or beat the charges. Find out more from the embezzlement defense lawyers at Lerner and Rowe Law Group.
What Is Embezzlement?
Embezzlement is a type of theft or larceny crime. Under Arizona Revised Statutes § 13-1802, it occurs when someone “[c]onverts for an unauthorized term or use services or property of another entrusted to the defendant or placed in the defendant’s possession for a limited, authorized term or use”. In simpler terms, embezzlement is the theft of property that a person had access to, but not legal ownership of, for personal gain. Because it is often committed by employees within companies or organizations, it’s often referred to as a white collar crime.
Some examples of embezzlement include:
- Committing payroll fraud
- Forging checks
- Voiding cash register transactions
- Skimming money from cash deposits
- Overbilling customers or vendors
- Using a company credit card for personal use
- Falsifying overtime
- Pocketing payroll taxes
- Securing a line of credit or loan in a company’s name
What Are the Penalties for Embezzlement in Arizona?
An Arizona embezzlement attorney may be able to assist you in getting your original charges reduced or dismissed.
A note on sentencing: you may qualify for a mitigated sentence based on a variety of factors, such as your age if you are a young defendant, or only having played only a small role in the embezzlement. On the flip side, you may receive an aggravated sentence if a judge finds the circumstances of the crime particularly egregious.
The criminal classifications and punishments for embezzlement are as follows.
- Embezzlement of $25,000 or more is a class 2 felony. Penalties include anywhere from three years (mitigated) to 12 and a half years (aggravated) in prison and fines of up to $150,000 plus surcharges.
- Embezzlement of more than $4,000 but less than $25,000 is a class 3 felony. Penalties include anywhere from two years (mitigated) to eight years and nine months (aggravated) in prison and fines of up to $150,000 plus surcharges.
- Embezzlement of more than $3,000 but less than $4,000 is a class 4 felony. Penalties include anywhere from one year (mitigated) to three years and nine months (aggravated) in prison and fines of up to $150,000 plus surcharges.
- Embezzlement of more than $2,000 but less than $3,000 is a class 5 felony. Penalties include anywhere from six months (mitigated) to two years and six months (aggravated) in prison and minimum fines of $1,000 plus surcharges.
- Embezzlement of more than $1,000 but less than $2,000 is a class 6 felony. Penalties include anywhere from four months (mitigated) to two years (aggravated) in prison and fines of up to $150,000 plus surcharges.
- Embezzlement of $1,000 or less is a class 1 misdemeanor. Penalties include up to six months in prison, three years of probation, and fines of up to $2,500 plus surcharges.
On top of criminal consequences, those accused and convicted of embezzlement may also face a civil lawsuit filed by the victim of the crime, in which the defendant must pay back the embezzled amount of money plus additional damages.
Possible Defenses to Arizona Embezzlement Charges
Possible defenses to an embezzlement charge including proving that the defendant had the consent of the property owner to possess the property, that the defendant had an honest belief that they had a rightful claim to the money or property, or that law enforcement lured the defendant into committing embezzlement (i.e., as part of a sting operation).
When you consult with an embezzlement defense lawyer, your attorney will review every aspect of your unique case to determine and evaluate all possible defenses and mitigating factors.
In some cases, a person may not have even been aware that they were embezzling funds and had no intention of defrauding someone. Other times, the property or money may be proven to have been a gift from another party, or that the defendant did in fact have consent from the property owner to do something with the property or money in question. Lack of fiduciary duty, entrapment, and other factors may also play a role in your case.
Why Do I Need an Embezzlement Defense Lawyer?
Embezzlement cases can be very complex, and no two are the same. When you consult with an embezzlement defense lawyer at Lerner and Rowe Law Group, your legal team will investigate every aspect of your case and review all pertinent documents, including financial data and related records.
In addition, they’ll form a comprehensive legal strategy to refute the prosecution’s claim. Your attorney may even be able to negotiate with your company out of court or with prosecutors for a more lenient plea deal. In the event that you’ve been wrongfully convicted, a criminal appeals attorney can help you appeal the court’s decision.
To discuss your legal options and receive a free, no obligation consultation with our staff, call Lerner and Rowe Law Group at 602-667-7777 in Phoenix or 520-620-6200 in Tucson. Our representatives are also standing by via LiveChat to answer your questions. To request your free case review online, simply fill out and submit this form, which will be forwarded to our office.