Embezzlement, in Alaska, is a classed as a white collar crime that is also known as employee fraud, employee embezzlement, or employee theft. It happens when someone is in a position of trust and abuses that position to acquire business funds for personal use. The state punishes these crimes very severely, focusing on Ponzi schemes, investment opportunities, and workplace issues.
Most of the time, the crime is committed when trusted individuals abuse their position in the relationship to take funds for their personal use. Because these funds had other original intents, the cumulative impact on families and businesses is significant. Additionally, there is the emotional impact of having entrusted someone who did not deserve that trust.
The state of Alaska wants to ensure that families and business owners alike know that legal recourse is available to them in cases of embezzlement, even if it occurs unknowingly or unwittingly. Sometimes, the crime is committed as a cry for help, for instance to pay for medical disorders, drug problems, or gambling disorders. Intent and motive do not excuse the crime, but they do provide insight.
Alaska Embezzlement Laws and Penalties
Under AK Stat § 11.46.210 (2017), the crime of embezzlement can range from taking some inventory or money to taking millions by falsifying invoices. Indeed, taking inventory or money, falsifying invoices or time cards, money transfers, and credit card fraud can all be classed as embezzlement in the state. The statute recognizes different levels of crime depending on the value of the property that was embezzled. As such:
- Property to a value of $500 or less is a Class B misdemeanor offence, leading to up to 90 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,000.
- Property to a value of between $500 and $25,000 is theft in the second degree, a Class C felony, leading to up to five years in prison.
Additionally, those facing charges of embezzlement can face significant other consequences that can impact their professional and personal lives. This includes significant media exposure and having to face the full force of the state’s justice system.
Alaska Embezzlement Defenses
Defenses against embezzlement are quite difficult to find. Ultimately, if the crime someone has been accused of did not happen at all, a lawyer will attempt to demonstrate that. However, in most cases, probable cause has already been demonstrated at indictment, which is why most attorneys will focus on showing that the property was not embezzled, but rather that it was taken for legitimate purposes. Sometimes, they will also try to demonstrate that the individual genuinely believed that the property was theirs to do with as they saw fit, which means that there was no intent to commit a crime.
Insufficient evidence is also a common defense, although more difficult in embezzlement cases. Sometimes, a lawyer will try to demonstrate that the defendant acted under duress, meaning they feared for their safety or that of a loved on should they not have agreed to take part in the scheme. This is generally the case in Ponzi schemes or large-scale conspiracies.
Alaska Embezzlement Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations in the state of Alaska for non-violent felony crimes is five years. For misdemeanor cases, the statute is also five years but it starts on the day of the offense itself. If fiduciary duty has been breached, then there is a one year statute from the day of discovery for prosecutors to put forward a case. However, an extension of up to three years can be requested and is usually granted.
Additionally, in cases of embezzlement, victims can also put forward a civil case. These cases have their own statute of limitations in the state. Specifically, contracts has a three year statute, damage to personal property has a six year statute, and fraud has a 10 year statute. Meanwhile, if someone has been wrongfully accused, they can also take civil action against this, as there is a two year statute of limitation in civil cases involving defamation.
The statute of limitations can also be delayed or tolled. This happens if the plaintiff is mentally incompetent or if they are out of state.
Alaska Embezzlement Cases
- Bookkeeper in Anchorage embezzled $750,000 – sentenced to three years. A 42 year old bookkeeper from Anchorage, Raenette Yangson, has been sentenced to three years in a federal prison for her role in the $750,000 embezzlement from her employer, Western Construction and Equipment, a construction company, between 2006 and 2012. Additionally, she is convicted of submitting false tax returns. Her role in the embezzlement was only uncovered after her son downloaded a computer virus on her private machine.
- Union official for theater workers sentenced for embezzlement. Anne Reddig, a 63 year old woman from Anchorage, has been convicted of embezzling $193,000 from a theater workers union. She has been sentenced to serve 14 months in prison as well as to pay $140,000 in restitution to the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. Reddig plead guilty to all charges.
- Ex-Skagway tribal employee sentenced for $300,000 embezzlement scheme. 64 year old Delia Commander, a woman from Oregon, has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for her role in embezzling over $300,000 from the Skagway Traditional Council. She will also have to pay $297,731 in restitution. She worked as the tribal administrator between 2008 and 2014, managing housing, contracts, grants, and finances.
- Alaskan civilian technician secretary faces embezzlement charges. Timothy Smith, who was the treasurer and secretary for the Association of Civilian Technicians Chapter 84 is facing embezzlement charges for $80,000 that was allegedly taken from the union. This is the result of an investigation by the Office of Labor-Management Standards at the U.S. Labor Department.
- Ex-hockey club treasurer faces wire fraud charges. Jennifer Suchan, a.k.a. Jennifer Kerr, is facing three wire fraud charges in federal court. She was the treasurer for a youth hockey association in Anchorage and is accused of embezzling almost $160,000. She has notified the courts that she intends to plead guilty to the offenses.