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Embezzlement occurs when somebody fraudulently misappropriates property that has been entrusted to them. It is a property crime that is different from larceny or theft because there is a relationship of trust between the embezzler and the victim of the crime. For example, a director of a closely held corporation who steals from petty cash has embezzled. Similarly, if a trustee siphons money from a trust, the trustee has committed embezzlement. If you are charged with this crime, you should retain a San Bernardino or Riverside County embezzlement defense lawyer. At The Law Office of Gregory H.Comings, we provide a strong defense to people accused of embezzlement, as well as people fighting charges of identity theft or other white collar crimes.
Understanding Charges of Embezzlement
Most people assume that embezzlement only occurs in connection with executives and others in positions of significant power. However, embezzlement charges can be brought against many different classes of people, and they can be based on all sorts of jobs.
To establish an embezzlement charge, a California prosecutor needs to show beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant had a specific intent to defraud someone of property that was entrusted to the defendant through a fiduciary relationship. The prosecutor needs to show that the defendant intended to deprive the other person or company of property either by taking it for their own use, spending the funds for something else, or otherwise violating a fiduciary relationship. A defendant need not have the intent to permanently deprive the property owner of the property. Even an intent to temporarily deprive is sufficient. People with fiduciary duties that could give rise to an embezzlement charge in the event of misappropriated property are public officers, agents, trustees, and corporate officers. Our embezzlement defense attorney can help Riverside and San Bernardino County residents who have been charged with embezzlement in any of these situations.
Under Penal Code section 484, theft has been committed when anybody feloniously takes, steals, carries, or drives away another person’s personal property, or when anybody fraudulently appropriates property that has been entrusted to them. The value of the property is determined by its reasonable and fair market value. When services were embezzled, the contract price sets their value, or the reasonable and going wage determines the value.
If the value of the embezzled property is under $950, the criminal penalty is up to $1,000 in fines, an imprisonment term of up to six months, or both. When the value of the property embezzled is more than $950, or the property is a car or firearm, the embezzlement may be prosecuted and sentenced as a felony. However, it is a wobbler that can also be charged as a misdemeanor. When it is charged as a felony, that means that you can face a prison term of six months to three years for embezzlement.
The presence of aggravating factors can result in increased penalties, as a San Bernardino or Riverside County embezzlement defense attorney can explain. For example, when the victim is an elderly or dependent person, the victim’s age or status is an aggravating factor that can give rise to a greater sentence. For example, if you were a companion to a 90-year-old person who had entrusted you to deposit a piece of jewelry worth $3,000 into a safe deposit box at the bank, but instead you sold it and kept the funds, you could be charged with felony embezzling and sentenced to a greater sentence due to the elderly victim.
When charged with embezzlement, you should not assume that the prosecutor will be able to make a strong case against you. There are defenses that may be successful when raised by an experienced attorney. For example, we may be able to argue that there was no intent to deprive the victim of the property. Alternatively, we may have a strong basis to argue that you had a good-faith belief of title. If the owner never demanded the return of the property, there may be a basis to argue that neglect was the reason why the property was not returned. It is also important to understand your rights during interactions with the police and hold them accountable when those rights are violated.
Consult an Experienced Embezzlement Defense Attorney in Riverside or San Bernardino County
If you are charged with embezzlement, you should contact The Law Office of Gregory H.Comings. Mr. Comings has more than a decade of experience representing people accused of as well as other offenses like drug crimes or sex crimes. He personally handles each client’s case. You can call us at 951-686-3457 or use our online form to request a case evaluation. Mr. Comings can provide a Spanish translator when necessary.