Embezzlement in Louisiana: What you should know

Embezzlement is a serious crime with harsh consequences in Louisiana and at the federal level.

A Baton Rouge woman worked as an office manager for a physician's office. According to the Hastings Tribune, she managed human resources, which included handling payroll and financial accounts. Between 2008 and 2015, the woman allegedly embezzled $430,490.

She pled guilty to conducting a wire fraud scheme, according to federal prosecutors. Embezzlement is a serious crime for which the penalties can be especially harsh.

What is embezzlement?

Generally speaking, the act of embezzlement is a form of theft. It is separated from robbery or burglary in that it involves someone who was entrusted to manage someone else's money or property. In other words, the person has legal access to the property or funds. When that person steals some or all of those assets, it is considered embezzlement.

Is it a state or federal crime?

Embezzlement may be prosecuted at either the state or federal level. Typically, a case will only be brought before the federal government if the theft involves a federal entity. However, if a private entity owns the property but the government has paid for it, through a contract, for example, federal prosecutors may also take on the case.

What are the state penalties for embezzlement?

Factors such as how much is stolen and the defendant's prior history could play a role in the possible sentencing for a white collar crime conviction. In Louisiana, embezzlement penalties are the same as penalties for theft, as embezzlement is considered theft by misappropriation without violence. The law states that those penalties are as follows:

  • When less than $750 is stolen: A misdemeanor with up to six months in prison and a fine of up to $1,000
  • $750 to $5,000: A felony with up to five years in prison and up to $3,000 in fines
  • $5,000 to $25,000: Up to 10 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines
  • $25,000 or more: Between five and 20 years in prison and up to $50,000 in fines

The law points out that previous convictions could result in longer prison sentences.

What are the federal penalties?

Someone charged at the federal level could face even harsher consequences. Similar to laws at the state level, these crimes are often punished based on the amount of money or property taken. The U.S. Code states that taking any property or money in excess of $1,000 could face up to 10 years in prison.

What are defenses to embezzlement?

There are several ways that a white collar crime defense attorney can build a case on a client's behalf. For example, there may be insufficient evidence that the crime took place or that the defendant was involved. Further, it may be demonstrated that there was a lack of intent to commit the crime or that the defendant committed the act due to duress.

No matter the circumstances, it is imperative that anyone who has concerns about this issue contact an attorney in Louisiana.