Being accused of embezzlement can be devastating. Depending on the case, embezzlement can carry jail time, massive fines, and even years in state prison. A single charge can also affect your job, your business reputation and your prospects for the future—but it doesn’t have to. If you have been accused, you need to talk to a Los Angeles embezzlement lawyer.
The Simmrin Law Group can help you. We have built our name on defending those who are accused, and we know how to win. Do not risk jail time or a lost career because of one criminal charge. Let us give you a free consultation. Fill out the form to the right or call us at 310-997-4688 and get your free consultation today.
How is embezzlement defined in Los Angeles?
Embezzlement is defined in a state law known as California Penal Code Section 503. Under this law, you are only guilty of embezzlement if all of the following facts are true:
You were entrusted with money or property,
The property’s owner trusted you to maintain or keep it,
You instead fraudulently transferred it to yourself for your own benefit, and
You did so with the intent to deprive the owner of the use or benefit of the property or money
Under the law, the prosecutor must prove each of these four facts. If they cannot, you cannot be convicted. This is why embezzlement charges can be hard to prove when the defendant has a good lawyer.
What are examples of embezzlement cases?
Embezzlement is usually seen as a white collar crime, and that’s often true. Accountants, corporate executives, employees and business partners all have the opportunity to embezzle in different ways. Anytime someone is entrusted with an account, control of a firm or an asset, cash or a business property there is the potential for embezzlement to occur.
However, embezzlement can also extend to many other situations, such as:
A son using his elderly father’s savings account to pay for his own purchases
A nursing home employee billing false charges to a patient’s medical account, and pocketing the money
A parking valet renting out the cars he is entrusted with
An ex-husband disposing of property that is jointly owned with his ex-wife, and keeping the full profit (or more than his allotted share)
Even simply stealing cash from a register technically counts as embezzlement.
What are the penalties for embezzlement in Los Angeles?
The penalties depend on what you’re charged with.
Petty theft refers to embezzlement worth $950 or less, and is always a misdemeanor.
Grand theft refers to embezzlement worth more than $950, and can be a felony or a misdemeanor
You cannot be charged with both for a single act. However, if you are accused of multiple small acts of embezzlement, and they collectively add up to more than $950 within any 12-month period, you can be charged with grand theft embezzlement.
The penalties for each one are:
Petty theft embezzlement
Up to 6 months in county jail,
A fine of up to $1,000, and/or
Summary (unsupervised) probation
Grand theft embezzlement (misdemeanor)
Up to 1 year in county jail,
Up to $1,000 in fines, and/or
Summary (unsupervised) probation
Grand theft embezzlement (felony)
16 months, 2 years or 3 years in county jail
A fine up to $10,000
Formal (supervised) probation
These are the basic penalties, but there are also some sentence enhancements that can make the penalties more severe:
You may face the maximum sentence for your charge if you embezzled from a senior citizen or someone under your care, and you may face an additional count of elder abuse if they are senile or have a major disability
If the property embezzled was a firearm you will serve your sentence in state prison instead of county jail
You also face extra time if you embezzled particularly large amounts of money:
1 extra year for property worth $65,000 or more
2 extra years for property worth $200,000 or more
3 extra years for property worth $1,300,000 or more
4 extra years for property worth $3,200,000 or more
Depending on the circumstances, you could also be charged with forgery, check fraud or real estate fraud.
When is grand theft embezzlement a felony?
It’s always a felony if it involved a firearm or an automobile.
Otherwise, the prosecutor will choose whether to charge you with a felony based on:
Your criminal history (if any)
The circumstances of the cases
How much money or property value was involved
This is an area where a lawyer can potentially help negotiate down an offer of a much less serious misdemeanor charge.
What is the best defense to an embezzlement charge?
The defense depends on what happened and what evidence is involved. However, the main three defenses that succeed in embezzlement cases are:
There was no criminal intent. The intent to deprive the rightful owner of value or benefit is part of the crime. Honest mistakes, even very serious and costly ones, are not embezzlement.
Good faith. If you can show that you were open and public about what you were doing, it undermines the element of fraud that is required in embezzlement cases. This is particularly strong if you believed the property was yours to use (even if you were wrong).
Wrongful accusations. Unfortunately, “embezzlement” is the first accusation made in many situations where former business partners—or family members—disagree over a property. These cases can be emotional and time-consuming, but they can also be easy to fight because the other side lacks hard evidence.
Ultimately, the best defense is the one that has an experienced, knowledgeable legal team behind it. You need to have a lawyer on your side.
Talk to a Los Angeles Embezzlement Lawyer for Free
Embezzlement charges ruin careers, businesses and lives. Don’t let this happen to you. The attorneys of the Simmrin Law Group have the experience, the know-how and the track record to take on embezzlement cases—and deliver results. Let us give you a FREE consultation. Fill out the form to the right or call us at 310-997-4688 and get your free consultation today.