Embezzlement is a type of theft or “larceny” in Virginia. Embezzlement generally involves employee theft or theft by someone who is responsible for handling money or property. Embezzlement can involve just taking a few dollars or it can involve millions of dollars taken over the course of years.
Embezzlement can be a serious offense in Virginia and result in felony criminal charges. If you have been accused of theft by another employee or employer, contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer to help fight back against a criminal conviction. Contact me today.
Embezzlement Law in Virginia
Embezzlement is deemed larceny in Virginia. Under Virginia Code § 18.2-111, embezzlement involves wrongful and fraudulent use, disposal, or concealment of money, check, bill, note, draft, bond, receipt, or bill of lading, which the person received for another based on the person's office, trust, or employment.
Anyone found guilty of embezzlement is punished under Virginia's larceny laws. If the embezzlement involves a value of less than $500, it is petit larceny. If the embezzlement involves something with a value of $500 or more, it is considered grand larceny.
Penalties for Embezzlement
The penalties for embezzlement are the same as for grand larceny or petit larceny. As petit larceny, valued at less than $500, embezzlement can be punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor. The maximum penalties include up to 12 months in jail and a fine up to $2,500.
Grand larceny embezzlement, involving $500 or more in value, is punishable by up to 20 years in a state correctional facility.
If convicted of felony larceny, the collateral consequences of a felony record can continue long after any jail sentence. This can include difficulty finding a job, finding a place to live, and restrictions on purchasing or owning a firearm.
Examples of Embezzlement
A manager for a children's choir had a company credit card and access to company checks. The manager would use the company credit card for personal expenses, vacation travel, and veterinary treatment for her dogs. The manager submitted altered bank statements to the accounting department to cover up the personal spending. The manager may be charged with embezzlement by the fraudulent use of company funds through her position as manager.
A bartender does not like how he is treated by the supervisor who gives preferential treatment to other servers and denied the bartender's request for a raise. When some customers pay cash for their drinks, the bartender doesn't ring them up and pockets the cash. The bartender tells his friends that he does this because he deserves a raise but the supervisor won't give him one.
This is embezzlement because the bartender is using his position in handling cash transactions to wrongfully keep cash that is supposed to go to the bar. Just because the bartender thinks it is justified does not make it legal.
Embezzlement can also involve very complicated bookkeeping methods or skimming small amounts of money from multiple accounts over time. This can be difficult to detect and it may only be discovered years later that millions of dollars were taken over the course of a decade or longer.
Investigating Embezzlement in Virginia
Suspected embezzlement can involve in-depth investigations and forensic accounting audits. Investigations can be conducted internally, through an outside auditor, or with state or federal law enforcement.
A suspected embezzler may be questioned by the company or investigators long before any arrest is made. If an employee is questioned about misusing funds or embezzlement, the individual should consider talking to an experienced criminal defense attorney even if no criminal charges have yet been filed.
Many people think that cooperating with the investigation will clear their name. However, the company or another employee may be trying to place the blame on someone else to hide their involvement. Just because you are innocent does not mean you can't be blamed for theft. Clever bookkeeping can make it look like you are the one who was taking company money.
Legal Defenses to Embezzlement Charges
Just because a company suspects that someone was stealing money does not mean that there is enough evidence for a conviction. The prosecutor has to prove the defendant was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
There are a number of possible defenses to embezzlement charges that could put doubt into the minds of jurors, or even get the prosecutor to drop the case. Defenses to embezzlement charges can include the following.
- The defendant made an accounting or paperwork mistake and did not intend to conceal or use the money.
- Another person was responsible for taking company money or property.
- The defendant had a good faith belief that he or she had a right to the property.
Charlottesville Larceny Defense Lawyer
Anyone facing embezzlement charges or accused of stealing from their employer in Virginia should contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer. The penalties for grand larceny by embezzlement can include extensive jail time, fines, and reimbursement of any money taken. If you have been charged with theft in Charlottesville, contact me today for a free consultation.