Embezzlement is a specific type of property theft that takes place when someone entrusted with handling money or other assets steals or misuses the property for personal gain.
For a crime to qualify as embezzlement rather than other categories of theft, one necessary element must be present: The defendant must have obtained control over, but not ownership of, the property in question. Theft combined with the violation of a unique position of trust constitutes the offense known as embezzlement.
If you’ve been accused of embezzlement, it’s critical that you work with experienced defense counsel. Attorney Michael J. Petro has nearly three decades of experience assisting individuals charged with various types of fraud and theft, including embezzlement.
What Leads to Embezzlement Charges?
Accusations of embezzlement can occur in a variety of different situations and places of employment. Officers or board members of companies are sometimes accused of embezzlement due to their access to financial records.
An employee who handles money, such as a store clerk or bank teller, might fall prey to embezzlement charges if money goes missing and accounts do not balance. In addition, a family member handling money for an elderly relative might be accused of embezzlement if money or property disappears without explanation.
In any situation in which an individual has control over someone’s money or property and that property goes missing, embezzlement charges can be levied. The crime can apply to both tangible property, such as jewelry or works of art, and intangible property like stocks, bonds or bank balances.
Embezzlement Law in Illinois
Embezzlement charges in Illinois often are brought under statutes related to general theft. For a defendant to be convicted of embezzlement, a prosecutor must prove:
- That the defendant had an arrangement of trust with the alleged victim.
- That the defendant obtained property because of the relationship.
- That the defendant took ownership of the property or transferred the property for his or her own benefit.
- That the defendant acted intentionally.
Embezzlement is considered to be a type of white-collar crime that is punishable in Illinois by imprisonment, fines and restitution. In addition, embezzlement sometimes is prosecuted under federal as well as state laws.
Penalties for Embezzlement
If you’re charged with embezzlement in Illinois, you could face serious penalties, and it’s important to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Penalties are imposed according to the value or type of property involved in the alleged embezzlement:
- If the property or money in question is valued at less than $500, you could face a fine of as much as $2,500, up to a year in jail, or both. If you have previous convictions related to theft, penalties can go as high as a fine of $25,000, one to three years imprisonment, or both;
- For property valued between $500 and $10,000, penalties can include a fine of as much as $25,000, two to five years imprisonment, or both;
- For property valued between $10,000 and $100,000, penalties can include a fine up to $25,000, three to seven years imprisonment, or both;
- For property valued above $100,000, penalties can include a fine up to $25,000, six to 30 years in jail, or both;
Special Types of Embezzlement
In Illinois, harsher penalties can apply for specific types of embezzlement:
- If you’re convicted of embezzling government property or from a church or school, you can be subject to penalties of a fine up to $25,000, one to three years imprisonment, or both for property or money worth $500 or less;
- For property valued between $500 and $10,000, the penalties can include a fine up to $25,000, three to seven years in prison, or both;
- Embezzlement of property valued at more than $10,000 can result in monetary penalties up to $25,000 and prison terms between six and 30 years, or both;
In addition, judges may hand down stiffer sentences for embezzlement convictions when the alleged victim is over 60 years of age or otherwise vulnerable.
Work With an Experienced Attorney in Embezzlement Cases
If you’ve been charged with a white-collar crime like embezzlement, penalties can include tens of thousands of dollars and years of imprisonment. For a personal consultation with a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer, contact Attorney Michael J. Petro.