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Embezzlement Defense Attorneys in Los Angeles

Our Team Provides Top White-Collar Crime Defense

Embezzlement, at its heart, involves a violation of professional trust. An accusation of embezzlement in California alleges that you misappropriated property that was entrusted to you lawfully. As such, a charge of embezzlement can be especially damaging to your career. You were in possession of the property, but you converted it or did something illegal with it, and can be convicted even if you intended to return it. Embezzlement can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the value of the property in question; but the misappropriation of firearms, vehicles, real property, or public funds is almost always treated as a felony.

If you are convicted, the crime of embezzlement will go on your permanent record – and make it impossible for you to gain employment, since employers will not want to put you in a position of trust. We’ve seen many innocent workers being wrongfully accused, whether due to a misunderstanding or poor recordkeeping. You may believe the evidence against you is overwhelming or want to cooperate fully with the authorities to make this go away, but you should talk to us first. Though confessing is treated as a "mitigating" circumstance, the court still has discretion to sentence you as it sees fit.

Werksman Jackson & Quinn LLP has seen many cases where the police were more interested in finding someone to blame than finding the real guilty party. We can investigate your case thoroughly and provide a strong defense. If necessary, we may be able to work out an informal resolution with your employer to get the charges dropped or reduced. Call us at (213) 688-0460 to set up a free consultation today.

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What Is the Legal Definition of Embezzlement?

Embezzlement is defined in California Penal Code 503 - 515 as "the fraudulent appropriation of property by a person to whom it has been intrusted." It is considered a crime against property, and as such is a non-violent crime. However, it is usually paired with other charges or multiple counts to make sentencing more severe. Here are some specifics found in the law:

  • P.C. 504 specifically names government servants and corporate agents who "fraudulently [appropriate] to any use or purpose not in the due and lawful execution of that person’s trust, any property in [their] possession or under [their] control by virtue of that trust, or [secrete] it with a fraudulent intent to appropriate it to that use or purpose" as being guilty of embezzlement. P.C. 506 and beyond extend that definition to attorneys, bankers, financial agents, debt collectors, tenants, people with power of attorney, clerks, servants, and more.
  • Removing, concealing, or disposing of someone else’s personal property in your possession is also grounds for an embezzlement charge, and so is accepting said removed, concealed, or disposed-of property.
  • A debtor who sells property secured by a security agreement, who does not report or give the proceeds of the sale to the secured party, is also guilty of embezzlement.
  • Any person with control of "transportation for hire" property (for example, an Amazon delivery driver) who uses it for any purpose "inconsistent" with the safekeeping and trust put in him is guilty of embezzlement, whether the package was opened or not.
  • Any contractor who uses money paid to him for a use or purpose other than that for which he received it is guilty of embezzlement. (This does not include paying subcontractor or laborers, or purchasing materials pursuant to the contract.)

It’s important to note that a distinct act of taking is not necessary to constitute embezzlement. In addition, the fact that the accused "intended to restore the property embezzled" is no defense if the restoration has not already taken place before the matter is laid before a judge or grand jury. On the other hand, California considers the fact that property was appropriated "openly and avowedly" under a claim of title preferred in good faith as a sufficient defense to embezzlement. However, it does not excuse the unlawful retention of another’s property.

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What Are the Penalties for Embezzlement?

Embezzlement is punished as a theft crime, which means it shares the penalties for petty theft and grand theft. Your potential penalties may be enhanced if you have a prior criminal history, if the value of the property in contention was especially high, or the crime was considered a "serious" one by the State. For example, if you are convicted of grand theft of a firearm, it is a "strike" under California’s Three Strikes Law. Here are the basics:

  • Petty theft is charged as a misdemeanor, and include items taken or property misappropriated of $950 or less in value. The penalty is a fine up to $1,000 or up to 6 months in jail or both.
  • Grand theft is a "wobbler" that prosecutors may charge as a misdemeanor or felony, and include items taken or property misappropriated of $950 or more in value. The penalty for a felony theft charge is up to 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in jail or state prison.
  • The misappropriation of firearms, vehicles, or real property sales is usually charged as a felony, regardless of the items’ value. For real property sales violations, the fine may be up to $10,000, with imprisonment in county jail not exceeding 1 year or pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170.
  • The embezzlement of public funds of the United States, or of any state or municipal government in California is a felony, punishable by incarceration in state prison. The person convicted with be ineligible for any office of "honor, trust, or profit," in California forever afterward.

You can also be charged with multiple counts of theft for separate instances of purported embezzlement, which allows the court to stack the penalties on top of each other. The crime is considered "aggravated" if the victim was an elderly or dependent person, and will incur a longer sentence and harsher fines. But a good lawyer may be able to present an effective defense and reduce the charges, or get them dropped altogether.

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Why You Need an Embezzlement Lawyer

White-collar crimes usually involve a maze of financial documents, online records, and remembered conversations. This paper-and-verbal trail can be a nightmare for a lawyer who doesn’t know what he’s doing, but our Los Angeles criminal defense team knows how to connect the dots to build a strong case for someone charged with embezzlement.

At Werksman Jackson & Quinn LLP, we understand how a misunderstanding about funds can lead to a charge of embezzlement. We have seen these charges appear as the result of an honest financial mistake, a poor business agreement, or because the real culprit has not been apprehended yet. Los Angeles Magazine named Mark Werksman to a list of the area’s top white-collar criminal defense attorneys, among other honors. Please call (213) 688-0460 to set up your no-cost initial consultation with a top Los Angeles white collar crime defense attorney today. Time is of the essence for your future.

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Additional Information

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Phone: (213) 688-0460
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