Embezzlement is a unique kind of property theft defined by the conditions of access and trust. While the majority of embezzlement cases are for big money, Maine law defines it as taking anything of value, money or property, from someone who has entrusted their money or items to your care. This means that even if you took less than $100 worth of cash or goods, you could be facing criminal embezzlement charges. If you’ve been accused of embezzling or know someone who has, building a strong defense relies on understanding what has occurred, what the law is, and the consequences involved.

Embezzling Money

While embezzling may be a kind of theft, it is treated differently in the courts because the act requires control of another’s asstets and a manipulation of trust in order to gain access. Accounting embezzlement, one of the most common forms, involves an accountant or bookkeeper left in charge of client or company money. The embezzlement occurs when such a person steals small amounts here and there, or unlawfully takes a large lump sum. Bank tellers and clerks are also often charged with embezzlement because of the temptation to help themselves to the money of wealthy clients whose accounts they manage. Similarly, often employees of companies who are given control over accounts and budgets often get charged for skimming a little money off the top.

Embezzling Property

Taking property is a little different, but follows the same pattern. This is most commonly seen with employees who are granted access to company assets like mobile phones, laptop computers, or company vehicles. The urge to keep them once you have them is strong, but a few people go above and beyond by selling their embezzled merchandise online. Another circumstance in which property embezzling occurs is in the homes of people who need regular care including disabled adults and seniors.

What are the Consequences of Embezzlement?

In Maine, embezzlement is punished based on the value of the property involved.  Thus the severity of the punishment increases with the dollar value of the stolen goods as follows:

  • $1 – $500: For those that steal money and property worth less than $500, the penalty is a fine up to $1,000 with a maximum of six months in jail.
  • $500 – $1000:  Thefts of less than a thousand dollars but more than 500 can face a fine as high as $2000 and a year in jail.
  • $1000 – $10000 or 2+ Theft Convictions: Those who steal between a thousand and ten thousand dollars of money or assets face a maximum penalty of $5000 in fines and up to five years in prison. If your embezzlement is less than $1000 but you have at least two previous theft convictions, this penalty also applies.
  • $10000+ :  Cases  involving property at this level fall into the most serious category. Fines can reach up to twenty thousand dollars, with up to ten years in prison. the risk of prison is highest in these cases.

Call Your Portland, Maine Criminal Defense Lawyer

Embezzlement may not involve violence or breaking into someone’s property to steal from them, but in many ways, it’s seen as much worse because of the betrayal of trust involved. When dealing with embezzlement charges, it’s important to call a local lawyer who understands how strong your case is and how the local prosecutors tend to handle embezzlement cases like yours. He or she can also advise you possible alternatives  to criminal charges and punishment  by arranging for immediate restitution of the money taken along with community service or other non criminal sanctions.

If you have been accused of embezzlement in the Portland, Maine area or its neighboring counties, you can count on Richard Berne to provide the same top-notch criminal defense service he’s been practicing for over 40 years. For more information on embezzlement or for a consultation on your case, please contact us today!