The repercussions of an embezzlement conviction may be severe, including years in federal prison, fines, and restitution. Embezzlement cases also tend to be high-profile, which can complicate the defense process.

Retaining legal guidance throughout federal criminal prosecutions may be a wise decision. Embezzlement cases often require close analysis of various financial accounts and accounting methods to determine the extent and the existence of wrongdoing. A criminal defense lawyer may be able to protect your rights throughout an investigation and trial. Reach out to a Charleston embezzlement lawyer today.

Embezzlement in Charleston

In general, embezzlement occurs when individuals who are in lawful possession of funds or property that belong to others take or misappropriate them for personal gain. The significant distinction between embezzlement and theft is that in a theft case, the individuals who take the property into their possession have no legal right to do so. In the case of embezzlement, the individuals typically have lawful possession of the property, although not ownership.

There are four basic elements to an embezzlement offense under federal law. These elements include:

  • Perpetrators had lawful possession of the property.
  • The property belonged to others.
  • The perpetrators used some deceit or fraud
  • The perpetrators converted or misappropriated the property for their benefit.

Embezzlement becomes a federal criminal offense when it involves the misappropriation of property or funds owned by the U.S. government. Some examples of situations that might lead to federal embezzlement charges include federal employees who embezzle money in the course of their employment, bank employees who steal funds from FDIC-insured financial institutions, and government contractors who misappropriate property belonging to the government. An embezzlement lawyer in Charleston may be able to help build a defense to federal embezzlement charges.

Embezzlement of Public Funds or Property

Federal law sets forth various forms of embezzlement, but 18 U.S.C. § 641 establishes the primary offense of embezzlement of public funds or property. The statute makes it illegal to embezzle, take, or steal public money, property, or records that belong to the U.S. government. Under this section, it is also unlawful for individuals to receive, hide, or keep stolen public money, property, or records belonging to the U.S. government for their gain.

Penalties for the embezzlement of public funds or property include a fine, up to ten years in federal prison, or both. If the total aggregate value of the funds or property embezzled or received is less than $1,000, however, the potential prison term drops to a one year maximum, plus payment of a fine.

Penalties for Federal Embezzlement Charges in Charleston

Penalties for federal embezzlement charges vary according to the facts of the case, including the value of the embezzled funds or property, the positions of the accused individuals, and the number of alleged victims.

Some embezzlement statutes dictate penalties—for instance, embezzlement by a bank officer or employee under 18 U.S.C. § 656 carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 30 days, up to one million dollars in fines, or both.

The more standard penalties for many embezzlement charges include a maximum prison sentence of ten years and thousands of dollars in fines and restitution. Depending on the profession involved, individuals are likely to lose their ability to return to that professional and may be stripped of all professional licenses and certifications.

Consult a Charleston Embezzlement Attorney

The stakes are high when facing embezzlement charges. You could be risking your job, your career, your family, and your freedom if convicted of serious charges. A Charleston embezzlement lawyer may be able to assess the evidence against you and develop a strong defense strategy.

The federal court system is quite different from the state court system and tends to involve far harsher penalties. As a result, consulting an experienced attorney at the outset of your case may be essential to a positive outcome.