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If you take property or funds to which you had legal access, but not legal ownership, and you were placed in a position of trust over said property, you may be charged with embezzlement. The key components – legal access and trust – are what separate embezzlement from simple theft.
Examples of embezzlement include an organization's officers stealing company funds, a bank teller taking funds from a customer's account, attorneys or accountants stealing from investment accounts they manage, and family members stealing from a relative in their care.
Embezzlement is illegal in all 50 states, though penalties vary widely.
What is the Difference between Federal Embezzlement and State Embezzlement?
Theft of federal government property may result in federal embezzlement charges. This could be a federal employee stealing from a federal entity or even a private contractor stealing materials paid for by the government. State embezzlement laws cover both state government theft and theft between private entities.
There may be instances where state and federal laws overlap. This happens when a bank employee embezzles funds, due to federal protections offered on bank accounts. In these instances, you typically face either federal or state charges. However, it is possible to face charges from both offices.
What are the Federal Penalties for Embezzlement?
Federal embezzlement charges depend on the amount of money or value of the property involved. If the value is less than $1,000, the maximum sentence is 1 year and the maximum fine is $100,000. Thefts valued over $1,000 carry a maximum sentence of 10 years, with a maximum fine of $250,000.
If the embezzlement involves any items that can be used to produce counterfeit money, the maximum sentence is 10 years and maximum fine is $250,000. Generally, thefts valued at less than $1,000 are charged as misdemeanors. Thefts in excess of $1,000 typically receive a felony charge.
What are the Penalties for Embezzlement in Arizona?
Like the federal government, Arizona bases its embezzlement penalties on the amount or property value stolen. In Arizona, all felonies carry a maximum fine of $150,000.
- Value less than $1,000: Class 1 misdemeanor; maximum sentence of 6 months; maximum fines of $2,500
- Value $1,000-$2,500, theft of a firearm, theft of an animal for the purpose of fighting: Class 6 felony; maximum sentence of 12 months
- Value $2,000-$3,000: Class 5 felony; maximum sentence of 18 months
- Value $3,000-$4,000, theft of a vehicle engine or transmission: Class 4 felony; maximum sentence 2.5 years
- Value $4,000-$25,000: Class 3 felony; maximum sentence 3.5 years
- Value $25,000 or more: Class 2 felony; maximum sentence 5 years
Again, punishment for conviction depends on the value and type of property stolen.
- Value $500 or less: Class C misdemeanor; maximum sentence 90 days; maximum fine $500
- Value $500-$1,000: Class B misdemeanor; maximum sentence 6 months; maximum fine $1,000
- Value $1,000-$2,000: Class A misdemeanor; maximum sentence 12 months; maximum fine $2,000
- Value $2,000-$10,000, a vehicle worth $10,000 or less, public record(s), or biological samples, cultures, microorganisms, invention, technical process, or scientific secret: Class D felony; maximum sentence 5 years; maximum fine $5,000
- Value $10,000-$20,000, vehicle worth $10,000-$20,000, public property worth $2,000 or less, victim aged over 60 or with a physical disability, telecommunication service property or theft interrupted telecommunication service: Class C felony; maximum sentence 10 years; maximum fine $10,000
- Value $20,000 or more, vehicle worth more than $20,000, public property worth more than $2,000: Class B felony; maximum sentence 20 years; maximum fine $15,000
What are the Penalties for Embezzlement in Montana?
Montana also punishes embezzlement according to value and type of property stolen. The court also considers whether the theft involved a plan and may combine the total amount of the planned theft for the purposes of prosecution.
- Value $1,500 or less: First offense: maximum sentence 6 months; maximum fine $1,500; Prior convictions: maximum sentence 6 months with a minimum sentence of 30 days; maximum fine $1,500
- Value $1,500-$10,000: Maximum sentence 10 years; maximum fine $50,000
- Value $10,000 or more: Maximum sentence 10 years with a minimum sentence of 12 months; maximum fine $50,000; court may also order the defendant to pay restitution to the victim or may impose harsher sentencing if the defendant fails to do so
Schedule a Free Consultation
If you face embezzlement charges, you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Schedule a free consultation to discover whether the offense is a felony or misdemeanor and to determine what your next steps should be.