In case you’re wondering what is a white-collar crime, a recent news item about a $1.1 million fraud involving Home Depot offers a good example.
In that case, an employee of a Home Depot store in San Rafael, California, was arrested for allegedly embezzling from the store an estimated $1,167,850 in cash starting in August of 2022.
According to USA Today, the store’s employee was arrested on October 17, 2023, and charged with 3 counts of felony embezzlement.
Embezzlement is a white-collar crime, along with such offenses as:
- Identity theft
- Money laundering
- Bank/mortgage fraud
- Healthcare and Medicare fraud
All are white-collar crimes by virtue of being non-violent in nature and involving deceit to avoid losing money or to make financial gains. But despite being non-violent offenses, such white-collar crimes can bring harsh punishments, including prison sentences and high fines.
San Rafael police said the worker, 42, of Richmond, California, admitted stealing money from Home Depot. The worker was released from Marin County Jail on October 19 via a judge’s order and awaits a court hearing set for December 5, according to the Marin County District Attorney.
Home Depot had reportedly contacted the San Rafael Police Department after conducting an internal investigation that showed that the suspect had been taking cash from the business since last year.
Police said she worked in a finance division and regularly took assorted amounts of cash from the register, ranging from $25,000 to nearly $174,000 in August 2023 alone. Police said she was manipulating the books as to how much she was depositing.
After obtaining a warrant to search the worker’s home, detectives said they found large amounts of designer merchandise and about $2,000 in cash. Authorities believe the appliances and luxury items they found were purchased with embezzled funds, and they’re examining bank records and receipts while freezing the woman’s bank accounts.
Houston white collar defense attorney Neal Davis wins leniency for Fort Bend County jail guard who admitted to pocketing nearly $290,000 in military pension checks.
How much prison time can you get for fraud?
As for how much prison time a person can get if convicted of the crime of fraud, that depends on the particular charge or charges, the amount of money taken and the location of the crime.
In California, felony embezzlement of more than $950 in property can lead to a prison sentence of between 16 months and 3 years in county jail and a fine of as much as $10,000. Lesser amounts of embezzlement carry lesser penalties.
Texas embezzlement laws are quite different and fall under the heading of “theft.”
- Under Texas law, embezzling or stealing up to $1,500 is a misdemeanor crime and not a felony crime. Even so, punishment can mean up to 1 year in jail.
- The embezzlement or theft of property worth $1,500 to $20,000 in Texas is a state jail felony, with punishment of up to 2 years in a state jail.
- Embezzling $20,000 to $100,000 in Texas is a third-degree felony, with punishment of 2 to 10 years in state prison.
- Embezzling $100,000 to $200,000 is a second-degree felony in Texas, with punishment of 2 to 20 years in state prison.
- Embezzling more than $200,000 in Texas, under Texas theft laws, is a first-degree felony, carrying punishment of 5 to 99 years—or life—in state prison.
Under Texas law, such white-collar crimes tend to involve theft for financial gain by an employee or someone who was entrusted with safeguarding goods or money. An embezzlement theft is considered fraud in the sense that it occurs by means of deception.
Fraud also can be a federal crime with federal punishments. In fact, in recent years, the federal government has been cracking down on various crimes of fraud. One such crime is fraud identity theft, which rose 19% in 2021.
What are defenses against a fraud, theft or embezzlement charge?
As for what legal defenses may be mounted against a charge of fraud, theft or embezzlement, that begins with finding the best white-collar crime defense lawyer or attorney to handle a case.
In the Houston area, the Neal Davis Law Firm has received awards and honors for its work in the field of white-collar crime legal defense in particular.
Keep in mind that since fraud or the theft of large amounts is a crime that can bring jail time, the burden of proof is on the prosecutors. They must prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that a worker or employee took goods, money, services or property without permission of the owner.
Some defenses a criminal defense lawyer may employ include:
- Lack of intent. A skilled and experienced white-collar crime defense lawyer can fight to undercut prosecutors’ efforts by establishing that a defendant did not have an intent to deprive an owner of such goods, money, services or property.
- Owner consent. Such a defense lawyer may also be able to show that overt or tacit consent was provided by the owner for the defendant to have acquired such goods, money, services or property.
- Unintentional mistake. A defense attorney can also fight to show that a defendant simply made a mistake, as in an unintentional math error that inadvertently altered a business’s records.
Even before a case goes to trial, a fraud defense lawyer can work to negotiate with prosecutors in an effort to get a charge dismissed entirely or at least reduced to a lesser charge. A plea deal may also be negotiated, allowing a defendant to plead guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for less punishment.
Get a defense lawyer for your white-collar case
If you live in Harris County, Sugar Land, The Woodlands, Conroe or elsewhere in the Houston area in Southeast Texas and you face a charge of fraud, theft or some other white-collar crime, contact a defense attorney or lawyer at the Neal Davis Law Firm. Then we can arrange a private consultation for your case.
Contact us today to seek legal help. Your reputation, your occupation and your freedom may depend on it.