Financial professionals often need to handle large amounts of money on behalf of their employers or clients. Mistakes, bad investments and other unfortunate circumstances could give rise to allegations of embezzlement.
Allegations of embezzlement, even inaccurate ones, can tarnish your reputation as a financial professional in California.
Embezzlement is a form of theft crime, and it is one that the state of California takes seriously. Unlike many other forms of theft, embezzlement specifically targets someone who has placed trust in an individual, often through their employment position. The alleged embezzler will use their position of trust or access to business assets to steal from the company. It is the violation of trust that makes embezzlement such a serious offense.
Some degree of fiduciary duty between the person accused and the victim of embezzlement is necessary for the crime to meet the state’s standards. Otherwise, it would likely be a lesser form of theft. Anyone accused of embezzlement will face potentially life-altering consequences if they plead guilty or wind up convicted in court.
Most times, embezzlement results in felony charges
Embezzlement charges can be misdemeanor or felony charges, but, as with all theft crimes, the value of the items involved directly impacts the charges and penalties the accused person faces. Grand theft charges will carry more weight on a criminal record than petty theft charges. The penalties for grand theft are usually much higher, too.
If someone accuses you of taking $950 or more worth of goods or money, the embezzlement charges that result will most likely be felony charges, much like grand theft charges. Only lesser amounts result in misdemeanor petty theft charges. If the charges relate to public money, the person/people charged will always face a felony charge regardless of how much they embezzled.
The potential penalties for a conviction include up to three years in jail and fines of as much as $10,000. Misdemeanor embezzlement charges carry the potential penalties of 364 days in jail and a fine up to $1,000. Special factors, like targeting older adults in a scheme, could result in increased penalties.
Embezzlement could end your professional career
Sometimes, it is possible for those accused of embezzlement to avoid jail time through a plea deal or repayment arrangement with their former employer. However, even in that situation, the person accused of embezzling will likely find their life forever changed.
A criminal record related to embezzlement will make it nearly impossible to secure gainful employment in the financial sector in the future. Clients and employers require trust, and given that embezzlement is a major breach of fiduciary duty, it can be hard to find those willing to extend that trust. It’s also important to note that a criminal record related to embezzlement or theft could result in the loss of professional licensing and keep you from getting that license back in the future.