Detroit Embezzlement Lawyer
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Embezzlement is a kind of theft where the perpetrator steals the money or goods by taking advantage of another person’s trust. For example, the perpetrator might be the guardian of a vulnerable individual or an employee who handles money for a business, a non-profit, or a government agency.
Most people convicted of embezzlement do not fit the usual profile of a criminal suspect. According to a national study of embezzlement cases across the country, the most likely offender is a woman in her forties with no criminal history. A common misconception is that most people embezzle funds to finance a drug or gambling habit. In reality, two-thirds of people convicted of embezzlement do so to maintain their lifestyle.
Most embezzlement cases occur within the financial services sector, which accounts for around 40% of incidents—one of the most common forms of embezzlement occurs when a bank teller pockets money from customer’s deposits. Government agencies are the second most likely victims (11% of cases), followed by non-profit organizations (9% of cases).
How Does Michigan Law Define Embezzlement?
Section 750.174 of the Michigan Penal Code defines the crime of embezzlement as when an agent or employee of an individual, business, or government uses his or her position of trust to fraudulently take property, valuables, or proprietary information. This definition covers a wide range of criminal conduct, such as:
- A bank teller pocketing a few bills when a customer makes a deposit
- A business manager using the company credit card for personal expenses
- The trustee of an estate using trust assets to purchase clothing, meals, or trips
Fraud is the misrepresentation of facts through lies, misleading statements, or omissions that deceive others in a way that is calculated to benefit the person making the misrepresentation. A court will generally find that fraud occurred when there is evidence of the following:
- A misrepresentation of an important fact
- The person making the misrepresentation knows it’s untrue
- There is an intent to deceive the victim
- The victim acts or relies on the misrepresentation
- The victim gets injured as a result
One type of embezzlement, that one might easily commit involuntarily, happens when a landlord or leaseholder misuses a security deposit or loan collateral. In Michigan, a landlord who places security deposits in a personal account along with rent checks may be charged with embezzlement.
What Are the Penalties for Committing Embezzlement in Michigan?
Embezzlement is a misdemeanor when the stolen property amounts to less than $1,000, which means fines will usually be in the hundreds of dollars and sentences generally won’t exceed one year. But for greater amounts or for repeat offenders, the prosecutor may bring felony charges that carry longer prison sentences and more serious fines than a misdemeanor. In some cases, you may be sentenced to pay back 3 times the amount of money you took.
To calculate the amount of money stolen, the court may look at all the money taken over a 12-month period. Thus, several small thefts may add up to a serious felony charge.
Not all punishments are decided according to the amount stolen, but rather the nature of the victim or the position of the alleged embezzler. For example:
- The judge may give you a harsher sentence if you stole from a charitable organization, a senior, or a vulnerable person.
- Michigan Penal Code section 750.175 mandates a felony level sentence of up to 10 years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines for any person holding public office who in his or her official capacity embezzles more than $50 of property.
- According to Michigan Penal Code section 750.176, the above punishment applies to any administrator, executor, or guardian who embezzles any property from an estate.
- Michigan Penal Code section 750.180 creates the possibility of a 20-year prison sentence for employees of banks, trust companies, or credit unions that commit embezzlement.
- Michigan Penal Code section 750.182 provides that employees of warehouses who steal from holding areas or cargo vehicles will face a sentence of 4 years in prison and/or fines of up to $5,000.
How Can a Detroit Embezzlement Lawyer Help?
Embezzlement is a serious charge that often raises complex legal issues. If you get convicted, you’ll not only face the fines and jail sentences mentioned above, but also a tarnished reputation, the obligation to pay restitution to the victims, and a permanent criminal record that can affect your ability to apply for jobs and in some cases vote or own a firearm. For these reasons, it’s essential that you retain the services of an experienced Detroit embezzlement lawyer to handle your case.
The amount of evidence a prosecutor needs to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed embezzlement is significant. The prosecutor’s case will be built on the testimony of your coworkers or associates and the paper trail that allegedly points to your guilt. Fortunately, a skilled legal advocate can show the gaps and inconsistencies in the evidence supporting the prosecutor’s narrative. If your lawyer can establish a reasonable doubt as to whether you committed the crime, you stand a very good chance of avoiding a conviction.
Another defense strategy consists in admitting that you did actually take money but arguing that you reasonably believed that you were entitled to it. The vast majority of crimes require that the offender act with criminal intent, or mens rea, and embezzlement is no exception. If your lawyer can demonstrate that you acted out of a mistake as opposed to criminal malice, you may obtain a verdict of not guilty.
Every criminal case is different, so you should consult with a Detroit white collar crime attorney about how best to defend against your embezzlement charges. At Davis Law Group, our goal is to give each and every one of our clients the best chances possible as they face the criminal justice system. If you’ve been accused of embezzling funds, call us today at (313) 818-3238 for a free and confidential consultation of your case.
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