Embezzlement is a kind of property theft. It occurs when a defendant, who was entrusted to manage or monitor someone else’s money or property, steals all or part of that money or property for the defendant’s personal gain. The key is that the defendant had legal access to another’s money or property, but not legal ownership of it. Taking the money or property for the defendant’s own gain is stealing; when combined with the fact that this stealing was also a violation of a special position of trust, you have the unique crime of embezzlement.
Embezzlement can occur in a variety of circumstances. For example, a bank teller has legal access to client money, and is trusted to handle but not take that money. Officers and employees of companies can also embezzle funds belonging to the company, as can family members caring for a relative, professionals like lawyers or board members who handle client or investor money, or anyone in a position of trust with regard to someone else’s money or property.
For more information about embezzlement, see Embezzlement: Penalties and Sentences.
In Oklahoma, embezzlement is punished according to the value of the money or property stolen. (Ok. Stat. Ann. § 1451(B).)
State officers and employees convicted of embezzling public funds are subject to increased penalties. These include a fine equal to triple the amount of the money embezzled, and at least one (and up to ten) years in prison. (Ok. Stat. Ann. § 1451(C).)
A public employee who falsifies accounts in order to embezzle public funds will face increased penalties. “Falsifying accounts” can include making false entries, or erasing entries to conceal the fact that the employee is keeping some or all of money that supposed to have been directed into a public account. Penalties include a fine of up to $500, and imprisonment for at least one (and up to 20) years. (Ok. Stat. Ann. § 341.)
If you have been charged with a property theft or embezzlement-related offense, consult an experienced criminal defense attorney. While the penalties and consequences of property theft charges are governed by statutory law, only a local criminal defense attorney can tell you how strong the case against you appears to be, and how cases like yours tend to be handled by prosecutors and judges in your courthouse. An experienced lawyer can also advise you as to possible alternatives to criminal punishment, such as paying back the money involved, along with court fees and other costs, or some other alternative that your judge might consider.