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With embezzlement, the charges can really add up

Embezzlement sometimes seems like such an unthreatening offense. There is no holdup, break-in or armed robbery. There typically isn't even a weapon, beyond a computer and a spreadsheet. Unlike many theft crimes, this one often involves a woman who is an administrative assistant or an accountant. In many cases, the "crime" occurs weekly or monthly, sometimes stretching for years.

Nonetheless, embezzlement is treated as a very serious crime and it and its ancillary acts can lead to significant jail time. The seriousness of the charges can be seen in the more than one million dollars in restitution an accountant in Centerville, Ohio will have to repay to the accounting firm she embezzled from and the potential for up to 20 years in federal prison for the wire fraud that was part of her scheme.

She also is facing an additional sentence of up to five years for income tax evasion. Embezzlement can begin as a crime of opportunity. Maybe an individual needs something extra for a gambling problem or drug addiction or just because they are short on cash during a month.

They obtain it easily, and seemingly, no one gets hurt. If the business is large enough, often no one will notice. But someone will eventually notice. And money embezzled still counts as "income" for taxation purposes, so your failure to pay taxes on the money triggers the tax evasion charges.

Because most money moves via electronic transfers these days, it means that federal wire fraud charges are also likely, and those charges could lead to decades in prison. Remember, there is no parole in the federal prison system, so if you are sentenced to 20 years for wire fraud in 2017, it will be 2037 before you will be released.

While this woman pleaded guilty, financial fraud and embezzlement charges could also arise with a business attempting too clever or complex transactions. For an accountant, being accused of such crimes could destroy your career, even if they are groundless, so anyone facing such charges should plan on developing an aggressive defense.


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Edward R. La Rue
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