Embezzlement usually conjures images of high-ranking executives funneling company money into offshore accounts, just to line their pockets. However, embezzlement charges in Charlotte, NC are rarely that straightforward. In fact, these are some of the most complex white-collar criminal cases to both investigate and defend, as they carry potentially devastating implications for people from all walks of life. Prosecutors and investigators typically have little sympathy for individuals charged with embezzlement because of the perceived betrayal of trust for financial gain, but by working with a highly-skilled embezzlement lawyer and developing a strategy that benefits your unique circumstances, it can make all the difference.
Embezzlement can be alleged in a variety of situations and across numerous professions, but it should never be taken lightly. Once you become aware that you are under investigation for embezzling from your employer or if law enforcement is already involved and you’ve been arrested and charged, it is essential to contact a white-collar crime attorney with a strong background in successfully resolving embezzlement charges.
With over 25 years of legal experience, an inside perspective as in-house counsel in the banking industry, and history of securing the best possible outcomes in state and federal court, the attorneys at Randall & Stump, PLLC know what it takes to handle any embezzlement allegation. If you’ve been accused of embezzlement in Charlotte, contact a Charlotte criminal lawyer today at (980) 237-4579, or reach out through our online form to schedule a free and confidential consultation with a Charlotte embezzlement lawyer.
Embezzlement Defined in North Carolina
Embezzlement is specifically described under North Carolina General Statute (NCGS) §14-90. The statute defines the offense as taking property or funds received by virtue of an individual’s office or employment, where the items are fraudulently or knowingly converted for their own use. Put simply, embezzlement is stealing money or property by a person entrusted with its care and for the purpose of their own personal gain.
A common example of embezzlement would be a bank employee who is responsible for handling money and managing the institution’s funds. If that individual takes money from the vault and puts it in their own pocket before leaving, they can be charged with embezzlement. It would be considered embezzlement as opposed to standard theft, because the employee had a duty to manage the bank’s funds, knowingly took money they were responsible for, and by leaving with it, they had converted the funds for their own purposes.
While this may appear clear-cut, a lot depends on your position, what you knew, and your intentions at the time. There is a lot packed into the elements of a criminal embezzlement accusation, and a prosecuting attorney must prove each element beyond a reasonable doubt, if you’re to be convicted.
Embezzlement vs. Larceny by Employee
In North Carolina, there are actually two distinct crimes relating to individuals using their positions to misappropriate or steal property. While the statutes concerning embezzlement and larceny by employee share some similarities, such as felony status regardless of the amount or value, these are actually separate crimes. The major difference lies in whether or not the individual was entrusted to the property by virtue of their position, and how it was converted. For example, if an employee puts merchandise in their pocket and leaves without paying, it would be larceny by employee. But, if a cashier at the same business removes money from the till and puts in their wallet so it appears to be their own money, it would be embezzlement since the funds that were under their care were illicitly converted for their use.
If you have been accused of either of the above offenses and are concerned about the potential implications of such allegations, contact an embezzlement lawyer from Randall & Stump, PLLC right away.
Who Can be Charged with Embezzlement in Charlotte?
Embezzlement does not have to operate on a grand scale. All that’s necessary to substantiate charges for the offense is that you had possession of property due to your role, and that you breached the trust afforded to you for your own financial gain. This includes corporate officers and employees who directly steal funds from their employer; family members acting as the executors of an estate or trustee for a relative; professionals such as accountants, insurance adjustors, or other financial advisors who routinely handle clients’ finances; or anyone responsible for someone else’s money or property.
A few common situations that can be considered embezzlement include:
- Using company credit cards for personal needs.
- Writing false checks from a business account into your own.
- Falsifying invoices, deposits, or overbilling customers and siphoning excess funds
- Removing materials or using company resources for financial gain.
It is important to note that embezzlement will always be pursued as a felony in North Carolina, but a lot will depend on your position in relation to the victim as well as the value or amount taken.
- Employees, Officers, Clerks, or Agents of a Corporation – If the value embezzled is $100,000 or more, this will be charged as a class C felony. If the amount is under $100,000, it will be classified as a class H felony.
- Treasurers of Charitable Organizations – If $100,000 or more was embezzled from the organization you represent, it will be charged as a class C felony. Amounts under $100,000 will be a class H felony.
- Public Employees and Government Officials – If the value was $100,000 or more, it is a class C felony. If less than $100,000 was taken, it is a class F felony.
If you’ve been accused with embezzling at any level in the Charlotte, NC, area, it’s best to discuss your specific circumstances with a qualified embezzlement lawyer.
Embezzlement Penalties & Collateral Consequences
Since embezzlement in Charlotte can be elaborate and involves a breach of fiduciary trust, investigators and prosecutors often devote significant time, energy, and resources into securing convictions. The penalties for those convicted of embezzlement in NC can be incredibly harsh, and even for a relatively small amount, you may face time in custody, the creation of a permanent criminal record, restitution, and steep fines. As a result, a conviction can have a long-lasting impact to your life, freedom, and ability to find employment. Additionally, if the prosecutor can establish that your crime consisted of multiple, separate acts, you could potentially face multiple counts of embezzlement, which may lead to long periods of incarceration.
North Carolina’s felony sentencing guidelines outline the following range of punishments for embezzlement charges:
- Class C felony embezzlement is punishable by a possible term of 58-73 months in custody.
- Class F felony embezzlement is punishable by a possible term of 13-16 months in custody.
- Class H felony embezzlement is punishable by a possible term of five-six months in custody.
Outside of time in prison, probation, community service, and potentially being held civilly liable, people convicted of embezzlement are forced to deal with other collateral consequences long after their sentence ends. Outside of the haunting effects of any felony conviction, a crime of dishonesty like embezzlement can make the immigration process incredibly difficult and will be very difficult to explain on future job applications. This fact is especially important to consider if your career requires you to hold any type of professional license.
When is Embezzlement a Federal Crime?
Some embezzlement cases may be pursued as federal criminal matters. This will involve referring the case to federal prosecutors, typically as the result of financial scams that cross state lines, international scams, financial schemes that involve large transactions that draw attention from federal investigators, or revolve around the misappropriation of public funds. In federal embezzlement cases, the penalties can be drastically higher than state charges. This is mainly because of the government’s emphasis on the erosion of public trust caused by negatively impacting the investment landscape for average citizens or wide-spread public corruption.
If you are charged with this crime at the federal level, it is imperative to contact an embezzlement lawyer who is familiar with this federal court and how highly-technical financial cases are handled. In many situations, a state charge can progress into a federal matter, but that can’t immediately be predicted by an attorney whose experience is limited to state court.
This can result in costly and detrimental delays in defending your case. In these situations, it’s usually best to retain a lawyer who can offer guidance in either the state or federal system. At Randall & Stump, PLLC, our Charlotte federal lawyers are well-versed in trying cases in federal court, and we know what to takes to protect you and your rights at this level.
Embezzlement Defense Options & What a Lawyer Can Do
Dealing with embezzlement charges in Charlotte, NC or allegations that you abused your position for financial gain can be a lot to handle. Your reputation, career, and ultimately your freedom will be on the line, but no case is hopeless. By retaining an experienced embezzlement lawyer, you can not only prepare yourself, you can also take proactive steps to build a defense and improve your situation.
In any embezzlement case, a lot will rest on the prosecution’s ability to show that you knowingly used your position to convert funds or property into your possession. This can be an intricate process, heavily dependent on long paper trails and complicated financial records to comb through. Sometimes, innocent miscalculations or resource allocations can be misinterpreted in cases where no actual malfeasance or illicit gain was intended.
With previous legal experience within the banking industry and extensive instruction at the White Collar Criminal Defense College at Stetson University, lawyers at Randall & Stump, PLLC, are highly-trained in these types of cases. Whether our embezzlement lawyers can avoid charges altogether by making sense of a convoluted financial situation or by presenting evidence on your behalf that highlights the flaws in the prosecution’s case, we will develop a strategy aimed at securing the best possible outcome.
Potential Embezzlement Defense Strategies
- We can refute that you converted the funds for your own personal use or gain. An essential element of the crime is transferring possession of the property or money in question to your possession, for your own personal use or gain. If we can establish that you never made this conversion, then the prosecutor may realize they cannot prove an essential element of the crime charged.
- We can deny your intention to commit a crime. This is perhaps the most common defense option, especially in cases where you can provide a plausible explanation. This is contingent on what you attempted to do with the allegedly-embezzled property. If we can argue that the property was simply misapplied due to an error or misunderstanding, another element cannot be substituted.
- We can argue legitimate ownership of the property. This option is typically available in circumstances where you had a good faith belief that the property was given to you legally. Common examples of this would include individuals coming into possession of another relative’s property, or employees mistakenly believing they were authorized to use certain equipment or resources privately.
Our objective in any embezzlement case will always be to obtain the best possible outcome. Depending on the circumstances, we may consider making restitution to the party (or parties) who lost their property as a means to forgo criminal prosecution. However, this will likely not be available in every situation. We will, however, explore every other alternative, including negotiating for a dismissal, a favorable plea agreement, or in the event of a trial, we can use technical motions and evidentiary procedure to control the flow of information and limit the government’s ability to secure a conviction.