In Arizona, embezzlement, which equates to fraudulent misappropriation, is charged in the same was a theft, regardless of what type of theft was committed. This is listed under the Arizona Revised Statute (A.R.S.) 13 § 1802. That said, theft is a very serious crime in Arizona and even more so when it is committed from a position of trust. When people abuse or misuse their position and do so in order to illegally take assets from others to further themselves, they face some very significant charges.
Arizona Embezzlement Laws and Penalties
Under Arizona law, theft is classified as a “non-dangerous” crime. There are different classes or levels involved in it, however, depending on the value of what was stolen. Punishments vary depending on the levels. As such:
- Theft of property to the value of $1,000 or less is a Class 1 misdemeanor, leading to up to six months in jail.
- Theft of property to the value of between $1,000 and $2,000 is a Class 6 felony, leading to four months to two years in prison.
- Theft of property to the value of between $2,000 and $3,000 is a Class 5 felony, leading to six months to two and a half years in prison.
- Theft of property to the value of between $3,000 and $4,000 is a Class 4 felony, leading to between one and three and three quarter years in prison.
- Theft of property to the value of between $4,000 and $25,000 is a Class 3 felony, leading to between two and eight and three quarter years in prison.
- Theft of property to the value of more than $25,000 is a Class 2 felony, leading to between three and 12 and a half years in prison.
Arizona Embezzlement Defenses
There are numerous possible defenses to embezzlement. If the person is actually innocent of the crime they have been accused of, a lawyer will always try to determine that. In many cases, defense attorneys will try to determine that the money was embezzled for legitimate purposes, meaning it was not embezzled at all.
Alternatively, they can try to demonstrate that there is insufficient evidence to demonstrate guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Sometimes, they may also try to demonstrate lack of intent, although this is a very difficult defense in embezzlement cases and one that is notoriously difficult to prove due to the nature of the crime.
Finally, a lawyer may try to demonstrate that the accused acted under duress. This means demonstrating that, had they not committed the embezzlement, they had genuine reason to believe they or someone else would come to significant harm. However, this means implicating a third party in the case.
Arizona Embezzlement Statute of Limitations
In Arizona, statutes of limitations are in place for the protection of defendants. It is believed that, the longer a time period passes between an action and prosecution, the more difficult it becomes to prove innocence. Similarly, Arizona legislators believe that people should not be punished for behaviors long ago in the past. However, if the defendant is accused of a felony crime, their statute of limitations will be longer than if it were a misdemeanor offense.
Additionally, a statute of limitations can be tolled from the date of the offense. For instance, if a crime had not been uncovered or if the defendant is out of state for long periods of time, the clock may not start ticking or it may be tolled until the defendant can face charges. In the state, under Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 13-107(B)(1), (B)(2), the statute of limitations for theft is one year for misdemeanor charges or seven years for felony charges.
Arizona Embezzlement Cases
- Arizona Sunrays could have been the victim of embezzlement. Arizona Sunrays, one of the best known dance and gymnastic clubs in the Valley, may have been the victim of embezzlement. According to Phoenix police, an active investigation is currently ongoing to determine what has happened. Specifically, the focus is on the parent booster club of Arizona Sunrays, where money is raised for programs for kids. It appears that someone with connections to the club is the prime suspect.
- Former superintendent for Hopi School sentenced to two years for embezzlement. A superintendent who has been convicted of embezzling almost $1 million from a local Hopi school has been sentenced to prison for two years. Thane Epefanio, a 45 year old man from Phoenix, pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering while working as administrator and superintendent of Kykotsmovi’s, a Hopi reservation, Hopi Mission School. It was alleged that he had started to embezzle funds in 2012, manipulating staff into giving him money that they believed would be for school purposes. The money instead paid for personal expenses and a gambling habit.
- Oakland’s BayTech Charter School faces more embezzlement allegations. Charges at the BayTech Charter School were made for Disney tickets, cruises, meals, and more. Concerns were raised by the district upon reviewing credit card bills and receipts. This is part of a broader investigation that is looking into possible financial mismanagement at the school and focus on the former principal. Concerns were raised by three current board members. Hayri Hatipoglu, the former principal, meanwhile, claims that the school board has made up the allegation to defame him. Purchases were made for expensive restaurants, Amazon, and Netflix and it is not yet clear whether this was for any legitimate purpose.
- Arizona Cox executive pleads guilty to embezzling $2.4 million. Janet West, a 48 year old woman from Paradise Valley and the former vice president at Cox Communications, has plead guilty to stealing $2.4 million from the company. She achieved this by using the company credit card. She entered a guilty plea.
- Mother admits to embezzling $400,000 from her nine year old son’s medical trust. Kasie Pruden-Rivera is said to have embezzled $400,000 from her son’s medical trust. Her son suffers from various health conditions, including permanent brain damage and cerebral palsy. Although the family is from Michigan, the story was first reported in an Arizona paper.