Accounting Mistake or Embezzlement?Published: Sep 13, 2019 in Criminal Defense, Federal Crimes, Theft Crimes
Many embezzlement charges arise from simple misunderstandings or a falling out between employers and employees. As a result, people are often shocked to learn that they have been charged with embezzlement, even when they did nothing wrong. If you’ve been charged with embezzlement in the course of performing your job, you need an experienced embezzlement lawyer to protect you from being wrongfully convicted.
With over 30 years of experience, Houston embezzlement lawyer Ned Barnett has the knowledge and skills you need. If you’ve been charged with embezzlement, call (713) 222-6767 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation to learn more.
What Exactly is Embezzlement in Texas?
Under Texas law, there is no specific crime of embezzlement. Instead, it is grouped under Texas’s law on theft. Theft is defined under Title 7, Chapter 31, Section 31.02 as when someone “unlawfully appropriates property with the intent to deprive the owner of the property.” To convict you of embezzlement, the prosecutor must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- You took money or goods;
- Without your employer’s consent; and
- With the intent to deprive your employer of their property.
Employer-employee relationships can be complicated. As a result, proving these elements may be more difficult for the prosecution than you may think. For example, you may have control over cash or other accounts as part of your job responsibilities and with your employer’s consent. The prosecutor needs to prove that you, therefore, took the money or other goods with the intent to steal them from your employer.
Examples of Embezzlement
Here are some common work situations that can lead to embezzlement accusations:
- Taking money from the petty cash account to pay for your own personal expenses
- Taking work supplies, materials, tools, or equipment for your personal use
- Transferring funds from a corporate account to your personal account
- Altering accounting records to conceal income to the business
If your job involves bookkeeping in any way, the last example is particularly important. Simple accounting errors can easily be misjudged as intentional embezzlement.
Accounting Errors and Embezzlement Charges
There are various ways that an honest mistake can result in embezzlement charges.
- Disorganized bookkeeping
- Mathematical or clerical errors
- Lack of expertise in accounting practices
- Poor accounting policies and lack of controls to guard against errors
- Poorly defined job responsibilities or unclear authority
It’s important to remember that the prosecution must prove that you intended to steal from your employer to convict you of embezzlement. An experienced embezzlement lawyer can help defend you against charges that were caused by a simple accounting error.
The Consequences of an Embezzlement Conviction
It may be tempting to think the situation will resolve itself if your charges are the result of an accounting error. Unfortunately, the consequences for embezzling even a small amount of money can result in jail, fines, and paying financial restitution to the victim.
- $1,500 or less: misdemeanor charge, up to one year in jail
- $1,500 to $20,000: state jail felony, up to two years in state jail
- $20,000 to $100,000: 3rd-degree felony, 2 to 10 years in state prison
- $100,000 to $200,000: 2nd-degree felony, 2 to 20 years in state prison
- More than $200,000: 1st-degree felony, 5 to 99 years in state prison
Contact a Houston Embezzlement Lawyer
If you have been charged with embezzlement, you are facing very serious consequences. A conviction could change your life. In addition to jail time and other penalties, an embezzlement conviction will also impact your ability to find another job. An experienced embezzlement lawyer can protect your future and fight for your rights.