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Is It Embezzlement if I Gave the Money Back?

Embezzlement in Phoenix, Glendale, Mesa, and Scottsdale, Arizona

Money can get people into a lot of trouble before they realize what is happening. Money can also make a person do things he or she may not have thought possible. Unfortunately, some people learn too late that what they considered to be an “innocent” crime has serious repercussions.

Embezzlement is usually referred to as a “white collar” crime because financial reasons motivate the crime instead of violence. However, embezzlement is still a crime. If you have been arrested or you are being investigated for embezzlement, you need an experienced Arizona white collar criminal defense attorney to ensure that your legal rights are not violated, and you have the best defense possible.

What is Embezzlement?

Embezzlement usually involves an employee who has access to the company’s or a client’s money or property. For instance, a bookkeeper for a company, a receptionist who handles client payments, or a cashier at a store could be arrested for embezzlement if they take money that does not belong to them. Embezzlement charges may also result if a person steals from another person if he had a legal or legitimate reason to have access to that person’s money or property.

The difference between embezzlement and theft is that the individual has a legitimate reason to have access to the stolen money or property. A thief does not have a legitimate reason for gaining access to the money he steals. Therefore, embezzlement can apply in many cases other than employment.

In some cases, a person may take money from his employer because he believes the employer “owes” the money to him. Another person may “borrow” the money because he has a financial hardship and he intends to replace the money as soon as his finances improve. Some people may commit embezzlement simply because they desire things that they cannot afford on their salary.

Regardless of the reason for the crime, embezzlement convictions carry serious penalties in Arizona. Depending on the amount of money stolen, the person could face a class 2 felony charge when the value of the property or services equals or exceeds $25,000. Even in cases in which the value is just over $1,000, the person faces a class 6 felony charge. A class 2 felony charge carries a prison sentence of up to 12.5 years while a class 6 felony charge can result in up to two years in prison.

What if the Money is Paid Back?

Paying back the money that was stolen is called restitution.  In many cases, a judge will order a defendant to pay restitution in addition to serving a prison sentence. However, if you voluntarily pay the money back before a court hearing, you could potentially avoid jail time, but that is not always the case. Even though you pay the money back to the company or the person, a crime was committed that can be prosecuted by the judicial system. Nevertheless, paying back the money could help your criminal case.

It is best to discuss your case with an Arizona white-collar criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney may be able to work with the victim and the prosecutor to reduce or dismiss the criminal charges if the money or property was returned to the victim. Because each case is unique, and the circumstances of the case can impact the charges and the potential penalties, working with an attorney experienced in embezzlement defense is your best course of action. Contact us today to discuss your rights and legal options.

Posted in: Embezzlement