In Connecticut, embezzlement refers to the crime whereby an individual appropriates for personal gain assets or funds that were placed in their care. It is a type of white collar crime, but that does not mean it isn’t serious. Indeed, the state of Connecticut looks very unfavorably on those who have been convicted and often imposes long prison sentences as well as very hefty fines.
Connecticut Embezzlement Laws and Penalties
Under Section 53a-119 of the Connecticut Penal Code, Connecticut describes the crime of embezzlement as theft, and specifically as larceny. They describe that it must involve the wrongful appropriation of a third party’s property that was in their custody or care at the time of the appropriation. The individual charged with embezzlement must, therefore, have had legal access to the property that was appropriated, which is usually done through professional relationships. Because the person committing embezzlement is in a position of trust, lawmakers take this crime incredibly seriously.
The way the crime is charged and what penalties are included in it depends on the value of the property and the type. As such:
- If the value of the embezzled property is $2,000 or less, the individual will be charged with a misdemeanor. This can lead to a one year jail sentence and/or a fine of up to $2,000.
- If the value of the embezzled property is between $2,000 and $10,000, the individual will be charged with a Class D felony. If the property was a scientific secret, invention, technical process, microorganism, culture, biological sample, public record, or vehicle, then it will also be classed as a Class D felony, regardless of financial value. This can lead to a prison sentence of up to five years and/or a fine of up to $5,000.
- If the value of the embezzled property is between $10,000 and $20,000, the individual will be charged with a Class C felony. Similarly, if the value of the property is $2,000 or less and public property or property belonging to telecommunications provider, or if the owner was physically disabled, blind, or over the age of 60, it will also be a Class C felony. This can lead to a prison sentence of up to 10 years and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
- If the value of the embezzled property is over $20,000, or if it is a piece of public property that is valued at $2,000 or more, it is considered a Class B felony. This can lead to a prison sentence of up to 20 years and/or a fine of up to $15,000.
Connecticut Embezzlement Defenses
If someone faces a charge of embezzlement, it is likely that a substantial case has already built against them and that the prosecution has a lot of evidence. However, everybody is innocent until proven guilty. It can be incredibly difficult to mount an appropriate defense, but it is possible because the prosecution has to demonstrate a number of elements beyond a reasonable doubt if they are to secure a conviction.
Numerous defenses do exist therefore, and a good lawyer will be able to explore all of those. They will investigate the circumstances surrounding the charge and determine whether any mistakes have been made. It is of the utmost importance, however, that defendants do not incriminate themselves and that they are made aware of their rights both in this case and in terms of their Miranda rights. Indeed, in many cases, there have been mistakes in the arrest procedure and this could lead to charges being fully dismissed.
Some common defenses include:
- Claiming good faith. Here, the defendant will demonstrate that they took what they believed to be full ownership of the property. This cannot be used if the property was compensation for debt.
- Claiming authority. Here, the defendant will demonstrate that they are in fact the legal owner for the property. For instance, they may have a power of attorney, legal arrangement, or trust instrument that proves they are the legal owner.
- No demand. Here, the defendant will demonstrate that the owner of the property did not demand for the property to be returned to them. This is used mainly when the prosecutor tries to demonstrate that the defendant refused to return the property when asked.
Connecticut Embezzlement Statute of Limitations
Under CGS § 54-193, Connecticut law states that, in felony cases, prosecution must commence within five years of the date on which the crime itself was committed. With misdemeanor cases, the statute of limitations is just one year. The statute can be tolled, however, if the defendant is actively evading justice, for instance by leaving the state, or in other cases where they are unable to stand trial.
Connecticut Embezzlement Cases
- Lunch ladies from New Canaan accused of embezzling almost $500,000. The lunch ladies are sisters employed by New Canaan High School and Saxe Middle School. Allegedly, they took half a million dollars over the course of five years. Joanna Pascarelli, 61, of Stratford, and Marie Wilson, 67, of Wilton, were arrested after a complaint was launched by the New Canaan Board of Education.
- Employee at car dealership in Hamden accused of embezzlement. Jevene Wright, a 34 year old finance manager at a car dealership in Hamden, has been accused of embezzling $80,000 from the dealership. Allegedly, Wright took personal checks or cash for vehicle purchases, asking people to leave the “pay to order” blank.
- Bank manager from Hamden accused of embezzling $850,000. Stephen Carbonella, a 59 year old man from Hamden, has been indicted by a New Haven federal grand jury for embezzling funds from Webster Bank Corporation, where he was a bank manager. The embezzlement scheme is alleged to have taken place between 2003 and 2017.
- Ex-mayor of Middletown accused of embezzling from family and law firm. Stephen T. Gionfriddo, 67, former mayor of Middletown, is facing embezzlement charges for around $490,000 for his past employer, Rocky Hill law firm, as well as $457,000 from a member of his family in order to repay Rocky Hill law firm. Gionfriddo was previously convicted of wire fraud and mail fraud, embezzling over $633,000 in his position of lawyer, after which he was disbarred.
- Owner of lawn care business faces embezzlement charges. Kevin Miezejeski, a 54 year old resident of Ivoryton and owner of Naturally Green Lawn Care LLC has been arrested on embezzlement charges. He is accused of embezzling $220,000 from clients in a one year period, between 2015 and 2016.