Embezzlement is a crime that many of us are familiar with, or have heard of, but can be hard to explain. Often viewed as the type of crime that is only committed by high-level executives at major corporations, the reality is that embezzlement can happen at every level of society and in any type of organization.
At its simplest, embezzlement happens when someone who had the authority to manage or monitor money or property on behalf of another person or entity takes or keeps it for their personal gain. It is different from other types of theft because the person charged with embezzlement had legal access to the money or property; they did not need to break into a house or steal someone’s identity in order to obtain it. The offense occurs when an individual abuses their position of trust to take that money or property.
For example, a Kentucky woman was charged with embezzlement-related offenses for taking more than $3.8 million from the Northern Kentucky Convention and Visitors Bureau (NKYCVB). She accomplished this by sending checks online to people who were purported to be vendors of the organization, but had no business relationship with the organization. Because the woman had legal access to the funds, but took them by sending fraudulent checks, it is considered embezzlement.
If you have been charged with embezzlement, you may be stressed and overwhelmed by the possibility of facing jail time or other serious penalties. A zealous Lexington, Kentucky criminal defense lawyer can help defend you against these charges.
What Is Embezzlement?
There is not a specific criminal statute that punishes “embezzlement” in Kentucky. Instead, embezzlement is more broadly included as a theft crime. It is typically charged as either theft by unlawful taking, theft by deception, or theft by failure to make required disposition.
Under Kentucky Revised Statue §514.030, a person is guilty of the crime of theft by unlawful taking or disposition when he or she unlawfully (1) takes or exercises control over movable property of another with intent to deprive him thereof; or (2) obtains immovable property of another or any interest therein with intent to benefit himself or another not entitled thereto. The crime is charged based on the type item taken or its value.
Theft by deception, Kentucky Revised Statute §514.040, can be charged when a person obtains property or services of another by deception with intent to deprive that person of the property or services. To prove this charge, a prosecutor must demonstrate that a defendant intentionally deceived the victim by:
- Creating or reinforcing a false impression, including false impressions as to law, value, intention, or other state of mind;
- Prevents another from acquiring information which would affect judgment of a transaction;
- Failing to correct a false impression which the deceiver previously created or reinforced or which the deceiver knows to be influencing another to whom the person stands in a fiduciary or confidential relationship;
- Failing to disclose a known lien, adverse claim, or other legal impediment to the enjoyment of property which the person transfers or encumbers in consideration for the property obtained, whether the impediment is or is not valid or is or is not a matter of official record; or
- Issuing or passing a check or similar sight order for the payment of money, knowing that it will not be honored by the drawee.
Importantly, deception under this statute does not include what is known as “mere puffery” — which are statements that are not likely to deceive ordinary people — or falsehoods that are not significant to the value of the property or services. In some situations, writing a check that you know will not be honored may be charged as theft by deception.
In some situations, a prosecutor will charge a person with theft by failure to make required disposition pursuant to Kentucky Revised Statute § 514.070. A person is guilty of this crime when (1) he or she obtains property upon agreement or subject to a known legal obligation to make specified payment or other disposition, and (2) he or she intentionally deals with the property as his own and fails to make the required payment or disposition.
Under this statute, officers of government agencies and financial institutions are subject to two assumptions. First, they are presumed to know of any legal obligation relevant to their criminal liability under the law. Second, they are presumed to have dealt with the property as their own when they fail to account or pay upon lawful demand, or when audit reveals a shortage or falsification of accounts.
The statute of limitation for these crimes is five (5) years. This means that unless the government brings charges within this time (with some exceptions), the charges cannot be filed. If you have concerns about whether you may be charged with a theft offense related to embezzlement, seek counsel from a seasoned Lexington, Kentucky criminal defense lawyer.
How Embezzlement Is Punished Under Kentucky Law
Theft by unlawful taking or disposition is a Class A misdemeanor. However, in certain situations, it is charged as a felony. The degree of felony — and the penalty for a conviction — depends on what was taken or its value:
- Firearm (regardless of value): Class D felony
- Anhydrous ammonia (regardless of value): Class D felony (unless it was taken with intent to manufacture methamphetamine, in which case it will be charged as either a Class B or a Class A felony)
- One or more controlled substances valued at less than $10,000: Class D felony
- Value of $500 or more but less than $10,000: Class D felony
- Value of $10,000 or more but less than $1,000,000: Class C felony
- Value of $1,000,000 or more but less than $10,000,000: Class B felony
- Value of $10,000,000 or more: Class B felony
Similarly, theft by deception is a Class A misdemeanor. However, in the value of the property, service or check is $500 or more but less than $10,000, it will be charged as a Class D felony. If it is $10,000 or more, it will be charged as a Class C felony.
Theft by failure to make required disposition of property is typically charged as a Class A misdemeanor. If the value of the property is $500 or more but less than $10,000, it will be charged as a Class D felony. If the property is valued at $10,000 or more, it will be charged as a Class C felony.
- Class A felony: 20 to 50 years, or life;
- Class B felony: 10 to 20 years;
- Class C felony: 5 to 10 years; and
- Class D felony: 1 to 5 years.
Given the potential for a lengthy prison sentence — particularly for a felony theft charge — it is vital to hire an experienced Lexington, Kentucky criminal defense lawyer to represent you. A strong advocate can develop both factual and legal defenses to the charges and work to obtain the best possible outcome for your case.
How a Lexington, Kentucky Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help
There are many possible defenses to a theft charge related to embezzlement, including lacking the required intent to deprive another person of their property. If you have been charged with this type of offense, you will need an attorney who understands Kentucky law and has the experience to aggressively defend you against these charges.
At Baldani Law Group, we have more than thirty years of experience representing Kentuckians in a range of criminal defense matters. Based in Lexington, we serve clients throughout the state. If you have been charged with a theft offense related to embezzlement in Kentucky, contact us online or call our office at 859-259-0727 to schedule a free initial consultation.