Embezzlement is a serious crime in North Carolina and is always charged as a felony offense. People from all walks of life and a variety of jobs can be charged with this crime. If you have been arrested for embezzlement or are a suspect in a criminal investigation, you need to retain an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to mount a strong defense to help you avoid the harsh punishments you face if convicted.
What Is the Crime of Embezzlement?
Embezzlement is a white collar theft crime. It is the taking of property, money, or other funds that are received due to the individual’s office or job, where the individual fraudulently and knowingly converts them for his own use. Basically, this crime occurs when someone is entrusted to manage money or other property and then steals it. While the offense is often committed in a corporate setting, this is not always the case.
Embezzlement can occur in one incident, but frequently happens over a longer time period with smaller sums of money or property being taken. Examples of embezzlement include:
- Stealing money from a till or cash register
- Writing false checks from a business or organization to the person who is embezzling the funds
- Creating false invoices or bills or overcharging customers and taking the excess money
- Using company resources for personal gain
- Issuing paychecks to falsified employees
- Stealing a company asset, such as a laptop
Elements of the Crime of Embezzlement
The major difference between embezzlement and larceny is that the accused person is entrusted with the money or property due to their position when arrested for embezzlement. The elements of the crime that must be proven are:
- The accused was in a fiduciary relationship with the victim.
- The accused obtained the money or property through his fiduciary relationship.
- The accused’s actions were intentional.
- The accused took ownership of the property or gave it to someone else.
A fiduciary relationship does not have to be formally established to exist. Individuals who can be considered in a fiduciary relationship include:
- Corporate officer or employee
- Financial advisor
- Insurance adjuster
- Officer in a charitable organization
- Public or governmental official
- Family member entrusted with the care of a family member or executor of his estate or trust
Penalties You Face If Convicted of Embezzlement
The classification of the felony that is charged in embezzlement cases depends on the position of the accused to the victim and the amount stolen. Here is how this crime is charged:
- Employees, officers, clerks, or agents of a corporation. If the amount stolen is over $100,000, embezzlement is charged as a Class C felony. If the value is less than $100,000, the charge would be a Class H felony.
- Treasurer of a charitable organization. Treasurers of charitable organizations will be charged with a Class C felony if the value of what was embezzled was $100,000 or more and a Class H felony if the value is under $100,000.
- Public employees and governmental officials. If more than $100,000 is embezzled, the crime would be a Class C felony. The charge would be a Class F felony if the amount embezzled is less than $100,000.
North Carolina uses a complicated sentencing system that is based in part on your prior criminal record. If convicted of embezzlement, you could be sentenced as follows:
- Class H felony. You could be sentenced to a five- to six-month jail sentence.
- Class F felony. You could be sentenced to prison for 13 to 16 months.
- Class C felony. Your sentence could include 58 to 73 months in prison.
- Restitution. In addition to a prison or jail sentence, you may also be ordered to pay restitution to the victim either in a lump sum or in installment payments. If you are ordered to pay restitution over time, you may remain on probation until you pay all that is owed.
Contact a Charlotte Criminal Defense Attorney for Assistance
At Browning & Long, PLLC, our skilled and trusted criminal defense lawyers understand the harsh penalties and long-term consequences you face if arrested for embezzlement in Charlotte. We can develop a strong defense strategy so that you achieve the best possible outcome given your situation. To learn more about your options and how we can help, contact our Charlotte office to schedule your free consultation today.