September 06, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/
-- When a business discovers money missing from accounts, allegations against bookkeepers or those working in accounting are common. A criminal embezzlement
charge or an accusation of misapplication of fiduciary property is different from common theft in that the person taking the money or property must be in a position of trust.
A recent case involved a bookkeeper. She allegedly set up a scheme to write herself unauthorized checks from company accounts. She worked for two related companies and hid the payments by listing them in the books as business expenses from the one company to the other. She was accused of altering bank statements by covering up original check images and destroying portions of bank statements.
She ultimately admitted embezzling funds and pleaded guilty to federal mail fraud charges. The woman now faces a fine of up to $250,000 and a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.
Embezzlement: Possible federal charges
Generally, federal embezzlement charges relate to tapping into public money or property. One example might be when an official redirects money from a federal agency to a relative. As in the above case, other charges such as criminal tax fraud
could be included if money obtained through a scheme was not reported on a tax return.
The federal penalties for embezzlement or tax fraud charges are very serious and include prison time and large fines.
Texas offense: misapplication of fiduciary property
Texas state statute makes it a crime for a fiduciary to misapply property. An example involved a manager at a state electric cooperative who was found guilty of this crime for funneling utility money to a relative. He received a sentence of 300 days in jail for his part in the scheme.
However, at the trial he had argued the assigned judge should not hear the case, because he had a financial interest in the outcome of the case. The request was denied. On appeal, the Texas appellate court found the judge, who reviewed the request used the wrong standard. The impartiality of a judge can come up in these types of cases, if the assigned judge has a financial stake in a company.
Penalties for the Texas state crime vary based on the value of the property misapplied. On the one extreme, property valued between $500 and $1,500 would result in a Class A misdemeanor charge. On the other, it is a first-degree felony to misapply property of $200,000 or more.
These cases require a robust defense. Large amounts of evidence often need review and some of it may not be admissible at a trial. Reconciling sloppy accounting could also assist in a defense. An experienced attorney will be able to spot possible defenses after a review of the evidence and law. Contacting an attorney right when you learn of an investigation is one way to protect your rights.
Article provided by Brown, PC
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