Embezzlement Defense Attorney in Michigan

Embezzlement specifically requires the defendant to have stolen or appropriated money or anything of value from someone who entrusted them with the money or property.

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What exactly is embezzlement?

The definition of embezzlement in the statute is somewhat complex and was written to be read by people familiar with legal terminology. In basic terms, embezzlement is when an employee is accused of stealing or giving away their employer’s property. In other words, they must have been in a position of trust, such as an accountant, cashier, treasurer, stock clerk, or bank teller, for a few examples. Of course, many positions could qualify, as long as the defendant was in a position of trust that enabled them to have access to money or property that other people would not ordinarily have. An experienced embezzlement defense attorney will know how to carefully review the evidence and find any possible defense to get charges dismissed or reduced.

Embezzlement victims are typically governmental agencies, companies, charities, or other defined organizations. Because of the influence businesses have on politicians and courts, defendants charged with embezzlement will face aggressive prosecutors and stiff punishments.

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Penalties for Embezzlement

Potential embezzlement penalties are stepped up based on the value of what was allegedly embezzled.

  • Value Less than $200.00: 93-day misdemeanor, 2 years of probation, and a $500.00 fine or 3 times the value of the embezzlement, whichever is greater.
  • Value Between $200.00 and $1,000.00: 1-year misdemeanor, 2 years of probation, and a $2,000.00 fine or 3 times the value of the embezzlement, whichever is greater.
  • Value Between $1,000.00 and $20,000.00: 5-year felony, 5 years of probation, and a fine of $10,000.00 or 3 times the value of the embezzlement, whichever is greater.
  • Value Between $20,000.00 and $50,000.00: 10-year felony, 5 years of probation, and a fine of $15,000.00 or 3 times the value of the embezzlement, whichever is greater.
  • Value Between $50,000.00 and $100,000.00: 15-year felony, 5 years of probation, and a fine of $25,000.00 or 3 times the value of the embezzlement, whichever is greater.
  • Value $100,000.00 or More: 20-year felony, 5 years of probation, and a fine of $50,000.00 or 3 times the value of the embezzlement, whichever is greater.

Prior Convictions and Certain Victims – Enhanced Penalties

The embezzlement penalties can be increased in any category if the defendant has prior convictions for embezzlement or if the victim was a nonprofit or charitable organization. If a defendant is convicted of embezzlement involving a “vulnerable adult” and one or more other offenses simultaneously, a judge may impose a consecutive sentence for the embezzlement conviction. Consecutive means that any jail or prison sentence on the embezzlement conviction would not begin until the defendant completes any sentence imposed on the other charges. The alleged victim is considered “vulnerable” if they are over 60 years old or otherwise legally diminished. If hired early enough, an embezzlement defense lawyer can work to prevent the consideration of prior convictions.

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Defenses to Embezzlement Charges

A highly experienced embezzlement criminal defense attorney knows that embezzlement, theft, and other white-collar cases are typically complicated and based on a paper trail. This trail could be composed of accounting logs, cashier logs, bank records, or cell phone records, all of which require admissibility in court through proper witnesses and an adequate evidentiary foundation. Collecting admissible evidence is not always easy for a prosecutor to do, and a retained lawyer will not let the government cut corners on following the rules. A reputable and savvy defense attorney would challenge the evidence at every turn to protect their client’s rights and ensure that no evidence would be admitted unless a proper foundation was laid to get it in. If the evidence does not get in, the charges are dismissed, and the case is thrown out of court.

Examples of defense attacks on prosecution evidence might include:

  • The prosecution witness is not the person with legal custody of the records and is not qualified to be the one to get them introduced;
  • The alleged evidence was seized in violation of Constitutional rights or legal rules;
  • A confession, if there allegedly was one, was improperly obtained in violation of the defendant’s Constitutional rights or other legal protections;
  • The alleged embezzlement was simply an honest mistake, such as an accounting error, not a theft;
  • The property allegedly embezzled is not of the value the prosecutor assigned to it;
  • The money or property was not converted to the defendant’s own use, as required by the statute.

What can an attorney do when there is no defense to an embezzlement charge?

When clients come to LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C., they often tell us they were “caught red-handed,” and they’ve already confessed. They want to know, “should I just plead guilty and save the cost of an attorney?” The answer is, “absolutely not!” There is still hope for you. First of all, let the attorney decide whether the case is winnable. Even if the evidence appears overwhelming and the client confessed, an astute and tenacious embezzlement defense attorney can still help and may be able to get the evidence thrown out of court or get the prosecutor to see things in a different light.

Furthermore, a top-rated defense attorney would spare no effort to prevail upon the prosecutor to dismiss or reduce charges, even in those cases where it is clear the client committed the crime. Additionally, a highly qualified and successful lawyer will know the strategies to win, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. Often, serious felony embezzlement charges can be reduced to a misdemeanor if persuasive arguments are made and restitution is paid.

What if I am accused of embezzlement but not charged?

If your employer or former employer has accused you of embezzlement or another white-collar crime, you must act quickly to protect yourself. The worst possible mistake you could make would be to do nothing and wait and see what happens. Doing nothing and waiting it out could have disastrous consequences. You should not talk to anyone about the accusations, even if you’re innocent. Do not make any admissions, do not agree to pay money back, do not deny anything…say nothing. Remember, anything you say “can and will be used against you.” A seasoned embezzlement defense attorney with experience representing people on a pre-charge basis will know the right moves to reduce your chances of being charged. Lawyers who advise you not to do anything until you are charged are doing you a disservice, and their poor advice can result in criminal charges that were avoidable. Police frequently suggest that if you “pay back the money,” you can avoid charges. Promising not to prosecute if the money is paid back is a lie and a trick! If you pay back the money, the police will consider the payment an admission, making felony or misdemeanor charges more likely. Hiring a lawyer does NOT make you look guilty; it makes you look intelligent and pragmatic. You cannot be charged based on “looks.” Do not trust your fate to prayers or a budget lawyer; get expert help immediately.

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of crime is the crime of embezzlement?

Embezzlement is considered a “white-collar” crime and a crime of dishonesty. For immigration purposes, it qualifies as a Crime of Moral Turpitude (CMT).

What is the difference between embezzlement and theft?

Unlike theft, where property is acquired illegally, embezzlement occurs when property is lawfully obtained by an employee who subsequently appropriates it fraudulently or unlawfully.

What is the difference between embezzlement and false pretenses?

For embezzlement, an employee gained the employer’s property through legal ways and then converted it unlawfully for personal benefit. The property was unlawfully gained through false representations or trickery for the crime of Obtaining Property by False Pretenses.

What does it mean to be charged with embezzlement?

The term “charged” means that a prosecutor or the police filed a complaint in court, and the defendant must appear in court to defend themselves or admit guilt. In most cases, the judge issues an arrest warrant once the charge is filed with the court, and the defendant must be arraigned. At an arraignment, the judge determines the bond amount and schedules future hearings.

What is an embezzlement example?

  • A cashier takes money for their personal use from their employer’s cash register.
  • An employee of a company diverts company assets to their personal bank account.
  • A stock clerk at a grocery store takes a sandwich from the store’s inventory for lunch without paying or getting permission.
  • A nurse at a doctor’s office takes their employer’s medication samples or other inventory to resell or for personal use.
  • An employee at a cable television company wires their parent’s home for free service.

What evidence supports embezzlement?

  • Financial and bank records,
  • Incriminating statements from other employees or coworkers;
  • An actual confession of guilt or inculpatory statement from the accused,
  • Cell phone and computer records, and
  • A pattern of acquiring money or items of value from the employer for personal use.

What are the essential elements of embezzlement?

A person who as the agent, servant, or employee of another person, a governmental entity within this state, or other legal entity or who as the trustee, bailee, or custodian of the property of another person, a governmental entity within this state, or other legal entity fraudulently disposes of or converts to their own use, or takes or secretes with the intent to convert to their own use without the consent of their principal, any money or other personal property of their principal that has come to that person’s possession or that is under their charge or control by virtue of their being an agent, servant, employee, trustee, bailee, or custodian, is guilty of embezzlement.

What kind of crime is the crime of embezzlement?

Embezzlement of property valued under $1,000.00 is a misdemeanor. If the value is greater than $1,000.00, the charge is a felony.

What is the most common form of embezzlement?

Cash skimming is the most common type of embezzlement. Cashiers, servers, bartenders, and delivery drivers, for example, can steal payments by destroying or altering transaction records and pocketing the money.

Can you embezzle by accident?

You can’t embezzle monies or property of an employer by accident. The activities must be deliberate, meaning you must be aware that you are stealing corporate assets without permission.

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Trusted Top-Rated Embezzlement Michigan Defense Firm

The Defense Team at LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. has decades of experience fending off embezzlement charges. They have negotiated very favorable resolutions to embezzlement cases that most attorneys would have considered lost causes. Throughout Michigan, judges and prosecutors know our firm and respect it because we are always prepared, tenacious, and effective. Judges have seen the extraordinary level of professionalism and compassion we embody. Our zealous, experienced attorneys have successfully represented thousands of clients on felony and misdemeanor charges in Oakland, Macomb, Wayne, Washtenaw, Livingston Counties, and throughout Michigan. We have a well-deserved reputation for providing the highest quality defense and aggressive representation while showing personalized empathy and care for each client.

Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation or complete an online Request for Assistance Form. We will contact you promptly and find a way to help you.

We will find a way to help you and, most importantly,
we are not afraid to win!

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