If you are charged with a federal crime involving embezzlement in Tampa or Hillsborough County, you need a white collar criminal defense lawyer with a proven track record of successfully defending federal cases in Florida. If you think you might be charged with a federal crime, have already been charged, or have any questions, please contact a  Tampa embezzlement attorney at Joffe Law, P.A. immediately.

What is embezzlement?

Embezzlement is a type of financial fraud. Specifically, when an asset has been entrusted to another person to hold or use for a limited purpose. Generally, it’s is premeditated, performed over a period of time, and hidden from the person or organization that is the legal owner of the asset.

How does it differ from fraud, larceny or theft?

  • Embezzlement. We already defined embezzlement as a type of financial fraud. So, embezzlement is a deliberate deception that results in unfair or unlawful gain of something with financial value.
  • Fraud. Fraud is defined to be deliberate deception in order to secure unfair or unlawful gain. It also includes depriving a victim of a legal right.
  • Larceny. Larceny started out in common law, but in the United States, it has transitioned into statutory or written law. Although it originally covered the taking of tangible personal property, it can now include money, real property, and labor in addition to personal property.
  • Theft. In common usage, theft covers a wide span of activities that result in the taking of another person’s property or services for which that person has not given permission or consent. Theft can include burglary, embezzlement, larceny, looting, robbery, shoplifting, and fraud.

Usually, in an embezzlement case, the owner of the property has transferred the property to another person. The second person then does things associated with the property that benefit them without the knowledge of the first person, the owner of the property. Also, the second person may attempt to conceal those actions from the first person.

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State and federal charges

There are United States Federal laws against embezzlement and there are numerous state-level laws. This crime is typically is charged at a federal level if it involves the agencies of the US government. However, there are other ways the jurisdiction can fall to the Federal Court. Businesses or contractors who have been paid with government money through rental payments or compensation may face charges of violating federal laws. Because banks and financial institutions are regulated and, sometimes, insured by a federal agency, embezzlement from a bank account is generally a federal charge.

Misdemeanor or felony?

Generally, if an embezzlement was for property or assets worth in excess of $1,000, the charge will be treated as a felony. Under that amount, the charges will probably be brought as a misdemeanor.

Types of related crimes

  • Siphoning. This term is generally associated with taking gas from a car, but it also means removing money from an account. Siphoning and computer embezzling were joined together in the movie “Office Space.” The protagonist in the film, Peter Gibbons, decides to take advantage of fractions of pennies that are rounded away during the calculation of financial transactions on the company computer. He and his co-workers decide to siphon these rounded-off pennies into Peter’s bank account. There are numerous examples of IT professionals attempting this in real life and the discussion is, “Did the movie copy a real event, or did life copy the movie?” In the movie, a typo in the programming code was Peter and crew’s downfall.
  • Check Kiting. This scheme requires two checking accounts and is just sloshing money from one to another taking advantage of the float time or the time it takes for a check to clear the bank from the time it was written from the company’s checking account. Changes in banking float times have pretty much eliminated check kiting in the United States.
  • Ponzi Scheme. When acquired funds from new investors are used to pay older investors to make it look like they are earning a dividend or interest, this is called a Ponzi scheme. See Bernie Madoff in the next section.

Examples of embezzlement

Embezzlement crimes can be grand, worth billions of dollars, and well known by the general public. Most of them, however, are centered on relatively small amounts of money and garner little public attention or press coverage.

  • Bernie Madoff. A Ponzi scheme is generally considered a type of embezzlement. For years, Madoff had deposited investors’ money into his business account and had withdrawn money from that account when investors requested redemptions. The estimated size of the fraud has ranged from $10 billion to $65 billion. With any estimate, it is considered to be the largest private Ponzi scheme ever.
  • Girl Scouts. Maybe it’s all that cookie money that people just find so hard to resist; the Girl Scouts are time and again being embezzled. The Girl Scouts of America have been afflicted with embezzlement by trusted troop leaders who siphon cookie funds for their own personal benefit. Each year from 2014 through 2018, there has been at least one case of a person in a position of trust and responsibility taking money intended for the girls and their troops. The amounts allegedly taken have ranged from $1,000 to $370,000.
  • Nuns. Yes, even the most religious of our population are vulnerable to the lure of embezzling. In 2018, two nuns who worked for decades at a Catholic school in California embezzled a “substantial” amount of money from tuition and other funds and used it to pay for gambling trips to Las Vegas. The women admitted to the activity that has been estimated at up to $500,000.

Types of possible defenses

If you have been charged with embezzlement in Hillsborough County or elsewhere in Florida, secure the services of at Tampa embezzlement lawyer immediately. Joffe Law can defend you against erroneous charges and ensure that your rights aren’t trampled upon. The sooner you contact Joffe Law, the sooner we can start building a defense case that will work in your best interest in the Florida federal court.