Embezzlement is taking advantage of somebody else to trust in you, an organization, or an individual to unlawfully take something they have entrusted to you. These include money or personal property. This type of crime is common in employment contexts. Employees are granted access to credit cards, cash, bank accounts, or any other kind of property that an employer deems valuable. It could extend to a client's property in a situation where an entity is hired to manage or run the property. If an employee illegally takes an employer's item or uses their funds and resources for their gain without their permission, this becomes embezzlement. This type of crime is considered a corporate or white-collar crime. It is mainly financially-motivated with no acts of violence and involves business personnel and government employees.

In most clear cases that have trended on the media, embezzlement includes high-ranking business professionals and large sums of money. The issues are usually complex and demand a high level of legal experience to navigate. While the picture painted by most embezzlement cases is a crime of the cream of the society, anybody can be caught up in this crime. The crime involves unlawfully taking or borrowing another person's or entity's property without their permission. It does not matter whether the owner intended to dispose of or keep the property. Get in touch with us at the Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm for expert criminal defense services if you are facing charges for embezzlement in the Orange County area.

California Embezzlement Penal Code Section 503

The crime of embezzlement is defined under the Penal Code Section 503. According to the code, embezzlement is defined as fraudulent misappropriation of another person’s property that they had entrusted to you.  Under the state's law, this type of white-collar crime is either charged with petty theft under Penal Code Section 484 (a) or a grand theft under Penal Code Section 487. A crime falls under either category depending on the amount of money involved; if it is more than $950 or consists of a firearm or an automobile, it is considered grand theft and petty if the amount is less than $950. With cars and guns, the value does not matter; the crime automatically qualifies as grand theft.

Another law involving embezzlement is the Penal Code Section 503, which deals with public officials. This law considers it a felony for public officials in the state, city, county, or municipal departments to unlawfully take available property. They use it for any other purpose other than designated without the property owner's permission, the government, or individual entities. This law is similar to typical embezzlement crime, but it involves individuals in public service.

Other embezzlement-related offenses include Penal Code Section 508- embezzlement by an agent or a clerk and Penal Code Section 506- embezzlement by fiduciaries of trust.

Here are two typical scenarios when you can face CA embezzlement charges:

  • If you are a treasurer of a non-governmental entity and decide to withdraw money from the organization’s coffers to pay a personal loan
  • In case you work in an elderly home as an accountant and decide to use funds meant to buy items for the facility to pay a car loan

Common Types of Embezzlement

Facing an embezzlement charge can be quite a complex and engaging process that may leave you drained. Consequently, it is imperative to seek the services of the best legal entity in the state. For starters, if you are charged with this crime, the prosecutor is likely to attach many other charges. To successfully pull off this crime, there is a possibility that you broke so many other different laws.

Embezzlement in the state's justice system's perspective comes in several ways and includes different individuals. The offender could be an employee in a corporate entity or the government, a stockbroker, executor of an estate, a trustee of a set trust, or anybody that misuses funds they are entrusted. The common types of embezzlements in California include the following:

Computer Embezzlement 

Computer-savvy individuals working in IT departments in corporate and state entities are the most common culprits. It includes using loopholes in a company's computer systems or your knowledge of such systems to steal from your employer. The allegations under this category could range between the following:

  • You electronically skimmed bits of finances from each sale in your company and transferred it into a private account that you own, or you are indirectly attached.
  • You unwarrantedly bugged your company’s computer system with a logic bomb code. This code transfers funds into an account of your choice at a specific time without detection.
  • You introduced a Trojan horse virus into the company’s IT system that gives you an opening to perform unauthorized functions that could include deducting funds from the finance system.

 Negotiable Embezzlement

This crime entails stealing, altering, forging, or illegally manipulating your employer's documents to acquire undeserved illegal funds. Employees in departments handling the negotiable documents such as credit or debit memos, company checks, customer money orders, and refund authorizations could be possible offenders:

 Wire Transfer Embezzlement

Most corporate entities use wire transfer as a means of transferring funds to clients or company accounts. Consequently, this provides a loophole for embezzlers. An employee could illegally intercept, alter, or manipulate an organization's statement electronically wiring money to their private accounts. They could do this by changing or altering funds, disbursement instructions to fit their course.

Credit Embezzlement

If you can handle the company's credit cards, this could be a possible embezzlement charge. You could have stolen another employee's identity to misuse credit card numbers for personal gain. Moreover, you could have used the company's credit cards or clients' to obtain funds from their accounts illegally.

Cash Skimming

It could mean taking undeserved and illegal cash from another individual without their knowledge. If you are frequently dealing with your employee's funds, you can encounter this charge. Individuals such as cashiers, accountants, wait staff, and bartenders could fall prey to this crime. You could be tempted to keep a little of your employer's money for your personal use. Chances of detection might be low, but over time during the company's budget meetings, inconsistencies will always be noted. If you are charged with embezzlement, an excellent legal representative should be by your side, or you will incur massive fines or even a lengthy jail term.

Common Ways Used to Embezzle In Orange County

There are many ways through which you can embezzle your employer's funds or property. Consequently, this means more ways through which you can be caught and charged accordingly. The standard methods used by employers to embezzle in California include the following:

  • Stealing Funds

    It entails taking your employer's funds without informing them. For instance, if you are working in a restaurant or a bar, you could receive and pocket money from a customer without making a record.
  • Lapping

    It involves stealing from billings from one client and covering it up with the billing of another client. For instance, you could steal from a $ 500 cash payment by one client then cover it up by stealing from another one expected to pay $ 1000. The process is repetitive and could lead to an employee stealing a lot of money.
  • Payroll Fraud

    It involves adding ghost employees into a company's payroll roster so you can receive several wage checks. You could also add friends and relatives to the company payroll and receive more than one unlawful payment check that you do not deserve.
  • Check Kiting

    It entails taking advantage of the time between a check's deposition and the actual day of funds collection. You unlawfully take a company's money and deposit it into your account. You then write two reviews to your back and the company's bank, and in most cases, the amounts are escalated. Consequently, the company's funds are held into different bank accounts at the same time.
  • Payroll Fraud

    It involves adding ghost employees into a company's payroll roster so you can receive several wage checks. You could also add friends and relatives to the company payroll and receive more than one unlawful payment check that you do not deserve.
  • Fake Loans

    An employee could also take a fake loan as a company representative without the owner’s knowledge. The lending entity believes it is the company getting the loan while, in reality, the money goes to an individual. By the time the loan is due, the embezzling employee will have disappeared with the funds leaving the owner in trouble.
  • Undercharging

    You are also guilty of embezzlement if you undercharge clients. It mainly applies when an employee chooses to undercharge family members or friends for an employer's services or items.
  • Fictitious Bad Debt

    It is a common crime involving bank accountants and lending firms' employees. If a customer deposits a check into their account or pays a debt, the serving accountant could choose to label the deposit as bad debt. It will mean the customer never made the deposit.
  • Fraudulent Vendor Purchases

    It entails setting up a fictions supply chain and creating bogus documentation of purchases of supplies never delivered. You could start a ghost company and make ghost purchases using your employer's money while providing fake documents. Consequently, you will be selling the company nothing but receiving money into your accounts.
  • Fake Refunds

    It means issuing fake refunds to non-existent customers. The money unlawfully goes into your pockets.
  • Kickbacks

    Employees in the purchasing departments could unlawfully receive kickbacks from suppliers to get good deals. It means accepting inflating the prices so you can get your cut from the transaction.
  • Bogus Expense Receipts

    It entails buying personal items with the employer's money and receiving it to the company.
  • Stealing Office Resources and Supplies

    It could include employees making long personal calls on company phones during business hours, using the company’s resources for personal gain without the owner’s permission.

Difference between Embezzlement and Theft

There is not a big difference between embezzlement and theft. Embezzlement is considered a type of robbery hence the close relationship between the two vices. The only significant difference can, however, be seen when both appear before the Orange County justice system. The difference comes with the punishment dished out for both.

In California, any form of theft, petty, or grand is defined as the conscious and unlawful of taking another individual's property without permission. While this description could fit embezzlement, the difference exists in the trust aspect. With embezzlement, the crime victim entrusts their property or funds to the defendant, who proceeds to breach that trust by stealing.

Moreover, under the state’s laws, you will be charged with theft if you took another person’s personal property without their permission. However, you can only be charged with embezzlement if the person you stole from entrusted you with the property or the funds you stole.

Common Group of People Charged with Embezzlement in Orange County

Anybody working for an entity that does not belong to them or is employed by the government can be charged with embezzlement. If you misappropriate funds and resources entrusted to you by your employer, you can be accused of embezzlement in California.

Some of the professionals most commonly indicted for embezzlement include the following:

  • Chief Executive Officers (CEO)
  • Non-Profit Organization Officers
  • Chief Financial Officers (CFO)
  • Investment Brokers
  • Real Estate Brokers
  • Certified Public Accountants (CPA)
  • Accountants
  • Church Leaders
  • Political Figures
  • Business Managers

Nevertheless, the crime is not limited to this list; anybody that chooses to wrongly use funds or resources entrusted to them by a client or an employer can still be charged for embezzlement.

Penalties for Embezzlement Offenders in California

Embezzlement offenders are heavily punished not only in Orange County but also all across the California state. However, the punishment depends on several factors;  the individual who committed the crime and the number of funds involved. Moreover, since the crime involves stealing, it is handled as either a petty or grand theft crime.

If the crime is considered petty by the justice system, it attracts a six-month jail term or a $ 1000 maximum fine. However, as grand theft, it is regarded as a ‘wobbler’ meaning it can be a misdemeanor or a felony. A misdemeanor grand theft attracts a one-year jail term and a $1000. On the other hand, a felony grand theft can grant you three years in jail with a fine of up to $ 10,000.

Embezzlement Defense in Orange County

Embezzlement is considered a severe crime in Orange County and can warrant serious fines and, in advanced cases, a jail term. It is crucial to hire the best Orange County legal entity to represent you accordingly if you are indicted for this crime. In the county's justice system, you are presumed innocent until the prosecutor proves you otherwise. A reasonable attorney will explore all the possible loopholes to get you off the hook. Furthermore, to prove you are guilty, the prosecution has to exploit the following elements of the crime to satisfy the charges:

  • You were entrusted the property by the owner
  • The owner trusted you with their property
  • You used the property for personal gain
  • You illegally used the property or funds with intent to deprive the owner

Best Defense Strategies to Win an Embezzlement Case in Orange County

Being charged for embezzlement can be quite an overwhelming situation that calls for desperate means. You might have limited knowledge of the state's laws, hence exercising your right of representation by hiring the best attorney you can find. Moreover, you not only need the best lawyer but one with vast experience handling embezzlement cases. It would be best if you had a lawyer who will critically explore every aspect of your case and develop the best defense strategy to win you the chance.

Your attorney could adopt many defense strategies to argue your case, but the following are known to deliver good results:

  • False accusation claim

    your owner could establish strong evidence that you were falsely accused of the crime. Consequently, you cannot be fined or jailed if such a request stands.
  • No intent

    if your lawyer proves that you did not intend to take the said funds or property without permission, then the state’s laws will set you free.
  • Consent

    your embezzlement charges will be dropped if the owner permitted you to take his property.
  • Insufficient evidence

    your attorney can get you off the hook if the prosecution does not have enough evidence to prove you are guilty of embezzlement.
  • A claim of right

     if you can prove that you have some legal claim to the property, you are accused of misappropriating or stealing, then the accusations will not stand.

You should be aware that no matter the intentions of returning the property or the owner's funds, you will be charged with stealing if you are caught. Choices to make things right cannot stand as a defense to a case of embezzlement.

What to do if you are Accused of Embezzlement in Orange County

If you are accused of embezzlement in Orange County, there are the dos and the don'ts to survive the grueling experience. Some of the tips  include:

  • Seek the services of an experienced defense attorney as soon as possible

    navigating the state's laws can be quite a hustle for a typical citizen. Consequently, if you are under investigation or facing embezzlement charges, you should contact an esteemed legal entity to represent you. It comes in handy to ensure your rights are upheld along the court process.
  • Do not engage the investigators or the police

    the investigators or the police might want to talk to you, but it is advisable not to hire them without a lawyer. They might appear concerned, but they intend to bring you down, and anything you tell them could be used against you during your case in court.
  • Keep off the social media

    it is imperative to note that anything you put up in your social media accounts could be used as evidence in court. Be wary of the posts you make, the videos and photos you upload, or the responses you cause to other people or sites. If you face embezzlement charges, it is advisable to stay away from social media until your case is over.
  • Collect and preserve evidence

    any type of documents that could prove your innocence should be well-preserved. Collect relevant receipts, emails, internal memos, or other documents that show you are not guilty.

The Fate of Offenders with Prior Conviction in Orange County

Things can be quite complicated and not appealing if you face embezzlement charges for a second time in ten years. It means that the prosecution will be more aggressive, and the penalties are likely to be higher than those of a first-timer. In such a case, you will need the best lawyer who can get prior convictions stricken and not featured in your current issue so you can be treated like a first-time embezzlement offender.

How can Hiring a Good Defense Lawyer Help Your Case?

An embezzlement case will not only warrant a jail term or hefty fines but will also negatively reflect on your career and professional engagements. Embezzlement means a breach of trust and fraudulent actions that will destroy your reputation in the corporate world and within the community ranks. You risk losing your career and damaging good relations with friends and family. Hiring an attorney could come in handy to help you clear your name and reestablishing torn relations, and getting back your reputation.

Find an Embezzlement Attorney near Me

California has some of the most stringent laws against embezzlement, but we at the Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm have great experiencing handling these whitecollar crime cases. We understand that you might not be familiar with the criminal justice system, so we will try to make everything smooth for you. Our team of experienced lawyers will defend you if you are facing embezzlement charges. Contact us at 714-740-7848 for a free consultation.