Defending against Embezzlement Charges—Illinois Embezzlement Defense Attorney
Embezzlement is a serious crime in the state of Illinois, punishable by prison time, fines, and restitution. Embezzlement offenses involve the taking of money or property by a person entrusted with their care. The higher the value of the property, the more severe the penalties will be. Most often, the charge occurs in an employee/employer context. Many hardworking individuals who have never been charged with criminal activity before are shocked to uncover they are being prosecuted for embezzlement. With your very freedom and future on the line, embezzlement defendants must employ the representation of an experienced, aggressive criminal defense attorney who will zealously fight the embezzlement charge.Stop Embezzlement Charges Before They Issue
In Illinois, potential embezzlement defendants are often contacted by law enforcement prior to being charged. Law enforcement will attempt to speak to those they intend to charge in order to gather evidence and strengthen their potential case.
It is critical that any individual who has been approached by law enforcement contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible, ideally before making any statements to the police. A seasoned Chicago embezzlement defense attorney may be able to resolve the matter before formal charges are ever issued. This will save time, money and prevent a criminal record. If charges are unavoidable, early involvement by a defense attorney will put you in the strongest position moving forward.Defining Embezzlement Under Illinois Law
Embezzlement is a form of property theft and can be charged as a state or federal crime, depending upon the facts of your case. The state charge of “embezzlement” will be brought under the Theft statutes, as set out in 720 ILCS 5/16-1. Under 720 ILCS 5/16-1, a person commits theft when he or she knowingly:
- Obtains or exerts unauthorized control over property of the owner; or
- Obtains by deception control over property of the owner; and
- Intends to deprive the owner permanently of the use or benefit of the property; or
- Knowingly uses, conceals, or abandons the property in a manner so as to deprive the owner permanently; or
- Uses, conceals, or abandons the property knowing such use, concealment or abandonment will probably deprive the owner permanently of its benefit.
Embezzlement is distinguished from traditional theft in that the defendant has legal access to the property, but not legal ownership of it. The crime was first defined by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1895, in the case of Moore v. United States. The court explained that embezzlement is the fraudulent appropriation of property by a person to whom such property has been entrusted, or who was lawfully in possession of it.
Traditionally, the unique crime of embezzlement involves some sort of relationship of trust between the embezzler and the victim. Often, the individual charged with embezzlement is an employee or officer of a company. Family members, professionals, board members, and investors managing the property of another can also embezzle funds.Punishment of Embezzlement in Illinois
In Illinois, embezzlement is punished in accordance with the value of the property stolen, as set out in 720 ILCS 5/16-1(b).
- If the property taken was valued at less than $500, then the theft is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year imprisonment and a fine of $2,500.
- If the property was valued at more than $500, but not more than $10,000, it will be considered a Class 3 felony, punishable by two to five years imprisonment.
- If the property was worth more than $10,000, but less than $100,000, than the embezzlement is considered a Class 2 felony, punishable by three to seven years imprisonment. Fines of up to $25,000 may also be imposed.
- If the property was valued at more than $100,000, but less than $500,000, than the theft will be considered a Class 1 felony, punishable by four to 15 years in prison and a $25,000 fine.
- If the property was valued at more than $500,000, but less than $1,000,000, it will be considered a Class 1 non-probationable felony, punishable by four to 15 years in prison and a $25,000 fine.
- If the property exceeded $1,000,000 in value, it is a Class X felony, punishable by six to 30 years imprisonment.
If the property subject to embezzlement was government property, or the theft occurred in a school or place of worship, the conviction increases to the next class (i.e., a Class 3 felony will become a Class 2).Types of Embezzlement Cases
Some of the most common types of embezzlement cases in Illinois include:
- Issuance of forged or unauthorized checks
- Employee theft
- Unauthorized withdrawal or transfer of funds
- False expense reports
- Manipulation of company books
- Payments to “dummy” vendor accounts
Thorough investigation of your Chicago embezzlement charges by a knowledgeable professional will often prove the most vital component to mounting a successful defense. Embezzlement charges generally involve complex accusations of misappropriated funds, forging of checks, and the like. These cases entail intricate trails of evidence that must be reviewed by a seasoned criminal defense attorney. Often, private investigators or forensic accounting experts may be necessary to present the strongest defense. The Law Offices of David L. Freidberg routinely utilizes such investigators for your defense.Attacking the Elements of the Offense
To convict someone of embezzlement or theft by fraud, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intended to deprive the owner of the property permanently. This mental state of the defendant is not always easy to establish, and any evidence that the defendant in fact intended to return the monies or property could refute this vital element of the charge.
Further, the state must establish that the defendant knowingly obtained the property with the intent to defraud. A possible defense to this element would be the defendant’s honest belief that he or she had a right to the property, and therefore did not knowingly take it with any intent to defraud or deprive the owner permanently.Offering Restitution
In some cases, offering to pay restitution for the embezzlement or theft by fraud charge can help you to avoid prison time or result in reduction of the charges to a lesser offense. Depending upon your financial situation, an experience embezzlement defense attorney could pursue this line of negotiation with the prosecutor in hopes of securing you a minimal sentence.The Law Offices of David L. Freidberg, P.C.: Providing Effective Defense against Embezzlement Charges
An embezzlement conviction can drastically impact your life, from your financial well-being to your freedom and future. If you are facing this serious charge, you require the assistance of a seasoned criminal defense attorney. David L. Freidberg has defended individuals across Illinois from embezzlement charges for over 20 years. The Law Offices of David L. Freidberg, P.C. has a proven track record of excellence, securing its position as the premier criminal defense firm in Chicago. We recognize the high stakes of clients charged with white collar offenses such as embezzlement. Our firm will meticulously investigate the facts and law surrounding your case and expose all avenues for a successful defense.
The Law Offices of David L. Freidberg, P.C. invites you to contact us today at (312) 560-7100 or toll free at 1 (800) 803-1442 to schedule your free consultation. As always, we are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to help you.