White collar crimes are nonviolent financial crimes. While they may sound like offenses that are reserved for high-level CEOs and billion-dollar corporations, the fact is that anyone can be charged with a white collar crime. Embezzlement, for example, may involve misappropriating hundreds of thousands of dollars from an employer, but it could also encompass seemingly minor offenses, like taking care of personal business while you are “on the clock,” or claiming mileage reimbursement for personal trips.

Because of the range in severity of acts of embezzlement, the crime is punished by degrees. Embezzlement of smaller amounts of money or property have much lighter sentences than embezzlement of large sums of money or high-value property.

Regardless of the severity of the offense, conviction of embezzlement leaves a criminal record that can be detrimental to anyone trying to find or keep a job. Whether a person is convicted of embezzlement as a misdemeanor or a felony, there are often collateral consequences that far outlast the initial sentence.

Finding competent legal counsel is necessary for building a strong defense against criminal charges. If you are asked about questionable practices in handling an employer’s funds, or if you believe that you may be under investigation, consult a lawyer as soon as possible. You do not have to answer any questions without the advice of your lawyer, and talking about your case to anyone but your defense lawyer is a critical mistake. Act now to get the legal counsel you need if suspected of embezzlement.

What is Embezzlement?

Embezzlement occurs any time a person trusted with the money or property of an employer or organization misappropriates that property, or uses it in any other manner than its intended purpose. Usually, this means that a person converts the money or property for personal use:

  • Transferring money from company accounts to personal accounts
  • Cashing company checks and spending the money or depositing it into personal accounts
  • Using a company credit card for personal purchases
  • Siphoning or skimming money from cash registers, safes, or deposits
  • Using a company’s gas card to fill up one’s personal vehicle without authorization
  • Collecting mileage reimbursement for non-business miles
  • Writing payroll checks to oneself, family, or friends for hours not actually worked

Oklahoma law defines embezzlement in 21 O.S. § 1451 as “the fraudulent appropriation of property of any person or legal entity, legally obtained, to any use or purpose not intended or authorized by its owner, or the secretion of the property with the fraudulent intent to appropriate it to such use or purpose.”

In other words, a person is given control of money or property, but uses it in a manner for which it was not intended. Whether you are an employee of a business, a volunteer with a non-profit organization, or the holder of power of attorney over an account or trust for another person, if you use the money or property entrusted to you for any other purpose than intended, you could be charged with the crime of embezzlement.

Oklahoma Embezzlement Penalties

Because there are degrees of embezzlement—from stealing office supplies to misappropriating thousands of dollars—the crime is punished according to the value of the property involved:

  • Less than $500 – a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine
  • $500 to less than $1,000 – a felony punishable by a maximum of one year in jail and a $5,000 fine. The person will also be ordered to pay restitution.
  • $1,000 to less than $25,000 – a felony with a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison, a $5,000 fine, and restitution.
  • $25,000 or more – a felony with a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, a $10,000 fine, and restitution.

There is a special provision for embezzlement of public funds. In this case, the offense carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of triple the value of the embezzled property.

Additionally, any person acting as executor, administrator, or trustee who embezzles from an estate is prohibited by law from receiving any portion of the estate.

Embezzlement Defense Attorney in Oklahoma

If you are arrested for embezzlement, you may not have even realized the acts you are accused of committing were illegal. Perhaps you intended to repay the money before anyone noticed it was missing. Perhaps you did not understand that certain property could not be used in a personal capacity. Maybe you are completely innocent of any wrongdoing and have been falsely accused of a crime you did not commit. Whatever the circumstances that led to your investigation and criminal charge, Coventon Criminal Defense will evaluate the case to build the strongest defense possible. Call today to find out how we can help you fight an embezzlement charge.