What Is Federal Embezzlement?

Embezzlement is theft [18 US Code Chapter 31]. This crime occurs when a person in a position of trust lies, misappropriates, or transfers funds or property in an unlawful manner. For instance, an accountant may use false pretenses to enrich their bank account. Embezzlement can occur on many levels and with different types of tangible assets. Though the premise is the same, federal embezzlement is a bit different. It becomes a federal crime when an agency of the United States government is involved.

The value of the property or money affected is important in determining which federal laws will be applicable. For instance, if the value of the assets is more than $1,000, then jail time is possible. A person can be sentenced up to 10 years for this type of theft. It can include tangible property, materials, or public records. A fine will be attached, but it cannot exceed $250,000.

When the value of the theft is less than $1,000, then the maximum fine is $100,000 or less. The maximum jail time also decreases to a one-year term. While less than higher property value embezzlement, this is still a very serious crime that can have life change repercussions. Any tools or instruments that are used to make counterfeit currency is considered to be an aggravated crime. The fine in this instance will be $250,000 and a person can be sentenced up to ten years in prison. The United States Treasury typically invokes these provisions.

The most common application of federal embezzlement is taking public money. Anyone that is charged with theft of public funds may receive enhanced penalties for their crimes. The $1,000 benchmark determines a suitable sentence. Any embezzlement over $1,000 or more will result in a fine of up to $250,000, and it can lead up to a 10-year term in prison. When the theft is less in value, then the fine is substantially reduced and the prison term reduced to a year or under.

Anything under $1,000, will be classified as a misdemeanor, which brings about a lesser charge. Anything over $1,000 is charged as a felony. Depending on the amount, the prison term can be a few months or it can be up to thirty years. When sentencing the defendant, their criminal history and the extent of trust given will be taken into consideration.

With federal embezzlement, a point system was developed to help determine the appropriate sentence. The lowest number of points possible, which is considered six in a federal case, is called the “Base Offense Level.” According to the guidelines, 36 is the highest number of points a person can receive. If the loss is under $5,000, then six points are assigned. To receive 36 points, the loss must be over $400 million.

Almost all non-capital, federal crimes have a statute of limitations of five years, and a perpetrator cannot be punished unless an indictment is handed down within that time frame. Federal law does not provide a longer statute of limitations for embezzlement, though it is one of the few crimes that it does not.

For embezzlement, especially at the federal level, the punishments are severe. If you or a loved one has been charged or are being investigated for embezzlement, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney with a winning legal track record to fight for you. Carl Haggard of The Haggard Law Firm has over 30 years of experience and is licensed to practice in all Texas Federal Districts. Call (832) 328-0600 or email today to schedule a free confidential consultation and we will immediately go to work for you providing the best defense possible.

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