A 55-year-old La Habra woman has been arrested and charged with 103 Counts of “Embezzlement”. Specifically, the charges filed by the Orange County District Attorney are: (1) Acts Constituting Forgery, 470(d)PC; Making False Entries in Records or Returns, 471PC and Grand Theft, 487(a)PC. Included are the following Sentencing “Enhancements”: (1) Aggravated White Collar Crime Over 100K and (2) Taking Funds Exceeding $50K.
This woman is being accused of taking petty cash from her employer and writing checks to herself, over a period of five years, while she was employed as an Office Manager. The total amount she is accused of stealing is $284,000.00. If convicted, she faces up to 73 years in Prison.
Embezzlement, also known as employee theft and employee fraud, falls under Penal Code 503, which falls under the umbrella of Penal Code 484 theft. Embezzlement is the way in which the theft was committed. It is defined as unlawfully taking something from another that has been entrusted to you. The difference between embezzlement and other types of thefts is the “entrusting”. In Penal Code 484, embezzlement is defined as: “Every person who shall fraudulently appropriate property that has been entrusted to him/her is guilty of theft”.
Although embezzlement is a form of theft, there are specific rules that apply to California embezzlement law. To be found guilty of this offense, the prosecutor must first prove three facts: (1) that you had a relationship of trust with the victim; (2) that, pursuant to the relationship, you were entrusted with certain property, and (3) that you specifically intended to deprive the victim of that property by fraudulently taking it as your own.
The penalties, punishment and sentence for a conviction of embezzlement depends upon whether you are charged with PC 487, grand theft (value of more than $950.00) or PC 488, petty theft (value of $950.00 or less). PC 487 Grand Theft is a “wobbler” meaning that it can be filed as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending upon the circumstances and your criminal history.
A conviction of misdemeanor grand theft exposes you to up to one year in county jail and a maximum fine of $1,000.00. A conviction of embezzlement as a felony exposes you to a sentence of 16 months, or two or three years in State prison and a maximum fine of $10,000.00. A conviction of petty theft embezzlement can mean a sentence of up to six months in jail and a maximum fine of up to $1,000.00.
In situations where the amount embezzled had a value of $50.00 or less, and you have no prior theft-related convictions, a good criminal defense attorney, with experience defending embezzlement cases, should explore the possibility of having your charge reduced to an infraction, and subjecting you to a maximum $250.00 fine.
A good embezzlement defense attorney will be familiar with the many legal defenses available and how to present them on your behalf. Some of the most common defenses an attorney might use are: (1) claim of right/good faith belief; (2) lack of criminal intent; (3) false accusations/innocence.
No matter how overwhelming the evidence may appear, your attorney should aggressively investigate the allegations, evaluate all of the evidence and search for inconsistencies and weaknesses in the prosecution’s case.
Anyone being accused of a crime in Orange County, California, should seek the advise of an attorney who is familiar with all the Courts in Orange County. An attorney who has a good working relationship with the individual Judges, District Attorneys, Court Clerks and Probation Department, as well as the Court staff, will be better able to get your charges reduced and/or dismissed. An attorney familiar with the Courts in which a case is pending will result in the best possible outcome available.
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