A 43-year-old woman has pleaded guilty to more than 50 felony crime charges including embezzling more than $1.4 million from a pair of law firms. According to a news report in The Orange County Register, prosecutors said the woman pleaded guilty to more than 50 felonies including those for computer access fraud, falsifying records, grand theft, identity theft and theft from an elder.
Officials said the embezzlements occurred between 2005 and 2012 when the woman was employed with the two law firms as a bookkeeper and office manager. Prosecutors alleged that she used the embezzled money for personal expenses including private school tuition for her kids and membership at a golf club. Irvine police investigators were alerted in May 2012 when another law firm employee found out about the financial discrepancies. If convicted, the woman faces up to 22 years in prison.
An individual is charged with embezzlement under California law when he or she is accused of fraudulently appropriating property that has either been entrusted to that person or property that belongs to someone else. Embezzlement is what we call a “white-collar crime.” However, people find themselves charged with embezzlement even when incidents involve smaller sums of money or property with little or no value. You could be charged with embezzlement even if did not intend to keep the property in question or were borrowing it temporarily.
The penalties of a conviction can be rather severe. Under California law, embezzlement is considered a form of theft. So, for example, if you are accused of stealing cash or property worth $950 or more, you could be charged with grand theft. And, grand theft could be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. Misdemeanor grand theft could lead up to one year in county jail while felony grand theft embezzlement could result in up to three years in prison. Those who are charged with embezzlement could also face other charges such as fraud and misappropriation of public funds.
When the cash or property is valued under $950, embezzlement is a form of petty theft, which is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in county jail. In order to get a conviction in an embezzlement case, the prosecutor must prove the case. However, there are several defenses that could be employed in such cases. You could show that you believed in good faith that you had a right to the cash or property in question. You could also demonstrate that you lacked criminal intent or were falsely accused.
When you are facing any type of criminal charge, there are other consequences in addition to criminal penalties. When you are accused of embezzlement, even when you are not convicted, it is a stain on your reputation. An accusation or a conviction of a white-collar crime could make it difficult for you to get a job or gain a position of trust in an organization. An accusation or conviction could also be problematic when it comes to personal relationships and your standing in the community.
These types of consequences are the reason it is important that you retain the services of an experienced Orange County criminal defense lawyer. In some cases, you may find out about an investigation even before charges are filed and the case becomes public. This is the time when retaining an attorney would be in your best interest. If officials contact you for “an interview” or “a chat contact you” do not talk to them unless you have discussed your case with a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer. What you tell law enforcement can, and often, will be used against you. Please remember that any posts on social media that you or someone else writes about your case could also be used against you in court.